Sun at Padre Pio's miracle shrine Buena, New Jersey
January 27, 2004 Padre Pio's Miracle shrine.Top photo from [Spirit Daily.com] oneline newspaper, story from [wpvi.com]. A local shrine... A growing number of believers... A site for the miraculous? "I just can't believe how much it's changed my life..." Action News Reporter Cathy Gandolfo meets a group of the faithful. People who say this area shrine led to dramatic encounters with the divine.
"There have been so many wonderful things that you just can't say that they're coincidence." Hear their inspirational stories of belief - and you may learn to believe, too. In rural south Jersey, along Route 40 in the town of Buena, a shrine to one of the world's newest saints is drawing hundreds of people seeking help for their medical and personal problems. As Cathy Gandolfo reports, the faithful believe that their prayers have saved lives.
Even on this very cold day, dozens of believers gathered at this shrine to Padre Pio to pray, to share pictures they believe depict angel wings and the light of God, and to share stories of miracles. Marie Russo of Franklin Twp. N.J. "We've had so many wonderful things that you just can't say that they're coincidence. "Little Madison Pio Avena was born healthy -- even though her mother had cervical cancer throughout her pregnancy. She rejected her doctors' advice and refused to abort. This man was on the waiting list for a lung transplant for more than four YEARS. Four MONTHS after he started praying to Saint Padre Pio -- a match became available.
Norman Lewand of Ocean City, N.J. "I feel terrific, I feel from 6 weeks ago, to be in here today, alive and energetic." Charlene Celona has a deadly form of leukemia. She's a Methodist -- devoted to a Catholic Saint. Charlene Celona of South Seaville, N.J."17 months into remission now...that alone is a miracle." Padre Pio was a Capuchine friar in Italy who died in 1968. He was canonized in 2002. Devotion to him internationally now rivals that of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe. He's usually portrayed wearing fingerless gloves, because he suffered from stigmata -- that is, he bled from the hands for no apparent medical reason. His gave his followers these instructions: pray, hope, and don't worry.
Marie Dandrea got the idea for building a shrine several years ago when she toured Italy, and says she saw visions of Padre Pio everywhere she went. When she returned home, she talked to her husband, and they donated ten acres of farmland, which became home to this shrine. Marie Dandrea of Buena N.J. "A vision came, that he should be here on a piece of marble. That was my vision." Every Wednesday night, Padre Pio's followers pray the rosary. Those seeking help line up to be blessed with oil, touch relics and ask for intercession. Padre Pio has many ties to this area; two churches and a mission recently merged to form a new parish bearing his name. But it's the talk of miracles that calls visitors to the shrine.
September 24, 2003 - Faithful reflect on death of saint Honoring Padre Pio.
Reported in [thedailyjournal.com] Buena. The death of Padre Pio was remembered Tuesday night in a ceremony at the shrine here that honors him. The event marked the 35th anniversary of Padre Pio's death at San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy. To commemorate Feast Day-- the saint's passage to heaven -- devotees gathered for a procession and recitation of the rosary at the Landisville shrine. The tribute was a show of gratitude for the saint, who has performed many miracles, said shrine co-founder Marie Dandrea. Padre Pio was canonized St. Pio of Pietrelcina last year.
Reported in [thedailyjournal.com] Written by Gisello Sotelo. Major changes are planned for the Padre Pio shrine in Buena. Organizers hope to build an open-air pavilion under which 500 people can pray, even when it rains. Buena- As his daughter struggles to overcome the cancerous tumors in her brain, John Canuso is praying for a miracle. As he does so, he's trying to make miracles of his own.
Canuso, proprietor of a private Haddonfield construction company, is embarking on an ambitious expansion plan for the Landisville shrine devoted to the renowned Catholic saint Padre Pio. Though the project remains in the incipient design stages, Canuso has a concrete image in mind. He proposes to build a giant open-air pavilion around the shrine with adjoining "subchapels." The shrine itself would remain in its present form, but the pavilion would be large enough to hold up to 500 people.
Each subchapel would be devoted to a different Catholic saint and include an enclosed kneeling area for private worship. And a one-acre garden would allow worshippers to pray the rosary in a scenic setting. The project, which has received some early support from borough officials, could well surpass the $1 million mark, Canuso said. The money would be raised through donations to the Padre Pio Foundation. Canuso plans to donate his labor and expertise, and hopes others will do the same.
But money is no object for this devoted father, whose love cannot be measured in dollar amounts. He hopes his tribute to Padre Pio, whose credited by many as having miraculous healing powers, will spur the saint's intercession in curing his ailing 39-year-old daughter. "I'm motivated," Canuso said. "I've got a kid that I've got to get cured." Canuso also built the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia as his daughter, 9 years old at the time, fought off leukemia.
If the project here comes to fruition, it wouldn't be the first miracle credited to Padre Pio. Padre Pio earned the sainthood last year in a canonization ceremony attended by local residents Peter and Marie Dandrea, who stood among thousands of onlookers at the Vatican. The couple own the 10-acre corner parcel where Padre Pio's statue reverently overlooks the three-way intersection of Route 40, Central Avenue and Weymouth-Malaga Road.
The pavilion would provide shelter from the elements, say the Dandreas, who are ecstatic about Canuso's plans. Currently, benches fronting the shrine are uncovered. The rosary service is held at St. Michael's Church in Minotola during rainstorms and winter months. Canuso originally proposed the construction of an entire chapel. But that idea was abandoned chucked because such an edifice might not be able to accommodate the large number of Padre Pio devotees that visit the shrine daily. Every Wednesday night, hundreds pray the rosary before the outstretched arms of Padre Pio's likeness. That doesn't count the daily, far-off travelers who trickle in to pay homage to the reverent statue.
The project has already received the blessing of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who leads the Diocese of Camden, said Canuso. The Dandreas await a similar response from DiMarzio's successor, said Peter Dandrea. Developers have already obtained a preliminary endorsement from the borough's Planning Board. At the request of developers, the board has agreed to recommend a zoning change to the mayor and Borough Council, which has final say over the municipality's zones. The shrine is on land now zoned for agriculture use. The proposed change to residential zoning would allow the construction of churches and other places of worship akin to that being proposed at the shrine, said project engineer Steve Filippone.
The road ahead for the expanded shrine remains long. If the council approves the zone change, developers will then return to the Planning Board for site plan approvals. The Pinelands Commission also would have to sign off on the project because the corner land parcel lies in the state-protected Pinelands region. Canuso aims to begin construction sometime next spring or summer. Padre Pio followers said they're certain the project could bolster their already fast-growing numbers.
"The more you add, the more people it will bring," says Mary Higgins, 69, a Padre Pio worshipper from Wilmington, Del, who visited the shrine Monday. "It's kind of special, you know?"
July 8, 2002 - Bishop blesses shrine to Padre Pio
Reported in the [Buenavistatownship.org]. Diane Stahl remembers driving by the corner of Route 40 and Central Avenue last summer and seeing a few people praying beside a small worksite in the field there. She had read something at the time about a shrine being built to honor the mystic Italian monk Padre Pio, and so she had her husband pull over. The people asked if they had come to help build it, and her husband, John, who works for a building contractor in Philadelphia, thought of his boss and told them he knew someone who could.
"And at that point, there was a smell of flowers," Stahl, of Williamstown, Gloucester County, said Sunday morning, referring to Pio's ability to make his presence known with the scent of violets. "And you can see, there aren't any flowers around here." Moments before Stahl recounted the story, about 200 people watched as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Camden Diocese, blessed the nearly completed shrine.
"This was a man who was no stranger to suffering in life, and yet he was happy," DiMarzio said of Pio, who died more than three decades ago and was declared a saint just last month. "I'm sure that everyone who comes here will find happiness in their lives." The monument was inspired by resident Maria Dandrea's visit with her husband, Peter, to Italy four years ago. She says she returned knowing only that she had to build it and, since then, people and businesses from near and far - like John Stahl's employer - have lined up with donations of the material and labor to do so.
A life-size statue of Pio now stands beneath a 30-foot canopy of steel and stucco, together set on a 10-acre lot against a backdrop of fields lined with rows of squash. Although people have been gathering to pray at the site each week for some time. "We started the rosary every Wednesday night, first it was five people, then 10, 25," said Emily Lepore, Peter Dandrea's sister. "Last Wednesday, there were 150 people here and they came from all over - Mays Landing, Toms River."
Lepore, 79, of Vineland, Cumberland County, grew up in the house that once stood on the site. She said her parents often had guests for meals, many of them strangers, and that the shrine seemed to continue the tradition. "Every day you see people stopping here to pray," Lepore said, "when some don't even go to church."
Lepore's cousin, Frances Sbrocco, who drove three hours from her Bergen County home for the occasion, acknowledged the difference between churches and places like the shrine - which she considers less about religion than about faith. "It's just a good feeling in your heart to know that you could be part of something like this," Sbrocco said.
Born in Pietrelcina in 1887, Pio was a Capuchin friar who lived at the San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy. His followers say he made miraculous cures, could prophesize and "bilocate," or appear in two places at once. His followers also believe he was the first priest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to bear the stigmata - bleeding wounds on his hands, feet and side that mirror those suffered by Christ when he was crucified.
In 1947, he heard the confession of the young Polish priest who would become Pope John Paul II, the same priest who would beatify Pio in 1999 - marking the last formal step before Pio, who died in 1968, was made a saint. "Apparently one person can make a difference," Tom Howell, 55, of Berlin, Camden County, said of Dandrea's work. "This shows that no matter what things happen here, what bad things happen, that God's good will go on."
Diane Stahl couldn't agree more. She said shortly after she met the Dandreas, her 18-year-old nephew, Tom, was diagnosed with leukemia last August and told he needed a bone marrow transplant. So she and her husband joined others at the shrine to say the rosary for him each week, and soon, she said, doctors found nine donor matches - when chances are usually about one in 50,000. And then, when Tom returned to the hospital for pre-testing before the transplant, she added, "they said they weren't going to do it, that there was no leukemia."
"So there's no doubt in our minds, no doubt at all," Stahl said, turning to the shrine's other visitors. "They come in tears because they hurt, and when they leave, they have tears of joy because they have faith, because they believe."