|Relic of St. Anthony of Padua to visit Massachusetts parish|
Catholic News ServiceSPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A relic of St. Anthony of Padua will be on display at St. Anthony Maronite Church in Springfield in September, the only scheduled visit to the U.S. this year.
"This is an exceptional event because rarely do these relics come for such an extended period of time," said Mark Dupont, spokesman for the Springfield Diocese.
Father George Zina, pastor of St. Anthony, said the Sept. 6-14 visit of the first-class relic was for everyone.
First-class relics are typically body parts of saints, such as a bone.
In 2013, the relic was on tour in honor of the 750th anniversary of the discovery of the bones of St. Anthony by St. Bonaventure. The relic went to New York and other cities.
Father Zina, who requested that the relic be sent to Springfield during a visit to Padua, Italy, said its presence would be a grace and a blessing to the area.
Parishioners have interceded twice to St. Anthony since the parish's founding in 1905 and believe their prayers had miraculous results, he said.
When the parish was founded -- initially named Sts. Peter and Paul -- the pastor, Msgr. Paul Abi Saab, became ill and parishioners prayed a novena to St. Anthony for his recovery. The pastor regained his health and the parish thrived through his leadership which was later continued by his nephew, Msgr. Michael Saab, who served the parish for 53 years.
In thanksgiving, the parish was renamed for St. Anthony.
Father Zina said he also believes St. Anthony protected the church when a 2011 tornado in Springfield veered around the parish property.
Deacon Enzo DiGiacomo planned the relic's visit for about a year. He said there will be special theme days as part of the nine-day visit. Organizers have planned a youth day, Maronite heritage celebration and events for Catholic schools as well as Latinos, Italians, Vietnamese, Polish and people of other nationalities.
"The excitement is not only because the relic is coming, but because we are able to offer to the public and to the parishioners of this parish, and all the parishes in the Springfield Diocese and then expanding out to New England, an opportunity to see, venerate and pray," the deacon said.
Three Masses are planned for each day the relic is at the church. Worshippers will have the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and to pray novenas.
"It's not just where people come and look and venerate St. Anthony. It's to get a new essence of our understanding of people," Deacon DiGiacomo said.
"The graces and healing that are going to be extended are above and beyond what we can imagine," he added.
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