A relic of St. Anthony of Padua will be coming to the Diocese of Springfield. Peggy Weber reports.
Bring your prayers to the messenger of hope
It was announced that an important relic of Saint Anthony of Padua will journey to America and visit with the Maronites of Springfield, Massachusetts for 9 consecutive days from September 5th through the 14th of this year, 2014, before returning to its resting place and shrine in Italy. During these nine days the Maronites of Springfield, who dedicated their church and parish to St. Anthony, will conduct a very special novena in thanksgiving to him for two separate miracles that represent over a hundred years of his patronage and protection.
For in 1907, Msgr. Paul Saab, who had only arrived 2 years earlier from Lebanon to gather all the Maronite families of Western Massachusetts into a parish, suddenly became deathly ill. If he died, the fledgling Maronite Mission would die with him, and their unique Catholic heritage would be lost. So the people turned to the Miracle-worker from Padua for help, praying their first Novena to St. Anthony. By the end of the novena Msgr. Paul had recovered and his nephew, the future Msgr. Michael Saab, arrived from Lebanon to study in the seminary of Montreal securing the future of their parish. In thanksgiving to St. Anthony the people named their church after him and placed it under his protection. Fast forward 100 years after the ordination of Fr. Michael, as the sunset on June 1, 2011, a horrendous tornado ripped through Springfield killing a mother sheltering her child in a tub and injuring 300 others. It leveled the homes south of St. Anthony’s Church and was headed directly for the Parish Hall where parishioners were already gathering for their monthly supper. At the last moment it veered around the hall mowing down the forest of trees behind, breaking a few windows, but leaving the people inside generally unharmed.
When the present pastor of St. Anthony’s Maronite Church, Fr. George Zina, wanted to hold another Novena to give thanks to the saint for his protection, St. Anthony came to him in a dream and directed him to the Basilica Shrine in Padua. There it was unexpectedly decided that they bring the holy relics of St. Anthony exclusively to Maronite people for Springfield for the full 9 nine days of the novena.
In response to so great an honor, the parishioners of St. Anthony’s Church would like to share their great blessing by inviting all the Maronites in America, as well as many other Catholic Dioceses, to make their own pilgrimage to the sacred relics of St. Anthony while they are in Springfield, Massachusetts. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey where the difficulty or inconvenience of traveling to a holy site becomes a prayer and offering for the intercession and protection of heaven. You may have seen devoted people walking barefoot, or on their knees to a shrine to intensify their prayers.
The Novena of St. Anthony in the presence of his bones will open on Saturday, September 6, 2014, at 11am presided over by Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron and Bishop Timothy McDonnell of the Diocese of Springfield, and will be followed by a MYO Retreat and Youth Day. The closing of the Novena will be presided over by retired Bishop Robert Shaheen, whose first solo assignment as a young priest was to St. Anthony’s in Springfield, on Sunday, September 14, 2014.
If you would like to participate in the visit of St. Anthony’s bones, or you would like to organize a pilgrimage for your parish, please contact Fr. George Zina or Maryann at (413) 732-0589. More information is also available with an extended schedule of events at the website: www.saintanthonysrelic.com.
Letter from The Diocese of Springfield – Office of The Bishop:
February 24, 2014
I write today with some very exciting news to look forward to later this year. Through the good offices of St. Anthony Maronite Parish, Springfield will have the great privilege of receiving from Italy an important relic of Saint Anthony of Padua from September 6th through September 14th, 2014.
Through the kindness of Fr. George Zina and our Maronite brothers and sisters, our diocesan community will have the opportunity to participate in this very rare presentation of the relic outside of Italy. This is the only planned presentation in the United States this year.
St. Anthony’s Parish has already begun to organize events for the weeklong visit, including a youth day and special opportunities for all members of our parishes to venerate the relic.
In the coming weeks, with assistance from our diocesan communications ministry, St. Anthony parish will publish a calendar of events and ask local Latin rite parishes to indicate their interest in participation. It will be important to respond as they anticipate visitors from throughout the East coast during this week and space will be limited.
So please mark your calendars and help start spreading the good news of the upcoming local celebration of the relic of St. Anthony of Padua here in our midst. With my prayers and best wishes,
Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell
Bishop of Springfield