Dozens of people from across the Diocese of Nashville were afforded the opportunity to experience one of the unique gifts of the Catholic Church during the monthly meeting of Young Catholic Professionals Nashville on Thursday, Nov. 17, in the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s Fleming Center.
Three relics of St. Padre Pio were available for veneration with the opportunity for attendees to touch personal sacramentals to them, creating third class relics of their own.
“This is the part where we’re blessed by the Church in Nashville,” said Grace Robinson, president of YCP Nashville. “At each of our monthly events, we have two community tables where we invite parish groups, non-profits, or other diocesan organizations to come and share with our attendees the ministries they offer.
“At YCP, we’re not here to try and replace any certain church group, Bible study, formation class, etc., but really help make that bridge between our attendees and the vast amount of incredible opportunities that are already available to them within the Diocese of Nashville,” she said.
The relics were brought by Padre Pio Prayer Group – Nashville out of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin.
Having the prayer group bring the Padre Pio’s relics to the event and “the number of attendees here where this is a first-time opportunity for this experience shows the importance of having an organization that is intentional about connecting young adults in their 20s and 30s with the depth of our faith and treasures that the Catholic Church offers,” Robinson said. “It’s really an educational experience, too, answering the questions of ‘What is a relic?’ or ‘What does it mean to venerate a relic?’
“That, for me, is what’s really exciting – to not just have this incredible saint in our presence where we can give this moment to people to pray with him,” she said, “but also to just talk about another aspect of the Church that can be misunderstood or not well known about.”
Padre Pio Prayer Group – Nashville, led by Paul and Mildred Chen, was established in 2018. And it all began because of the relics of Padre Pio.
While on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in December of 2017, the Chen family, through their spiritual guide on the trip, met a woman who had a vision of Padre Pio while visiting the church next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome back in 2010. During the 2017 pilgrimage, she shared the story of how that vision led to Padre Pio telling her that her 4-year-old nephew, who had cancer, would be cured. Shortly after, she was gifted relics of Padre Pio including gloves worn by him, which were used to cover his stigmata, as well as a chalice and altar cross used by him when he celebrated Mass.
After hearing that story, Paul Chen, upon returning to the United States, felt in his heart that he should reach out to the woman and invite her to bring the relics to St. Philip. She did, and during Holy Week of 2018, a veneration of relics and healing service was held at St. Philip.
It was during that event that “people started asking if there is a Padre Pio Prayer Group in Nashville,” Mildred Chen explained. And just a short time later, the group was started and the woman gifted them a small piece of cloth from the wound bandage Padre Pio would wear over his heart wound, the same heart wound of Christ.
As the group has grown, they have obtained other relics including a glove of Padre Pio, a large bandage with traces of Padre Pio’s blood, and even a feather from Padre Pio’s own pillow. These are the three relics that were available for veneration during the event.
“We’re hoping that when (these young professionals) venerate or touch the relic of Padre Pio that they will have a spiritual connection with St. Padre Pio, and we hope that St. Padre Pio will intercede for them in ways that they won’t expect,” Paul Chen said. “Having a friend or having a coach in heaven is so powerful.
“We hope that Padre Pio will intercede for them and deepen their faith,” he added. “That’s what happened with us after Padre Pio came into our lives over the last four years. Our faith has grown leaps and bounds.”
“Our favorite quote is ‘pray, hope and don’t worry,’” Mildred Chen added. “So that’s what we tell people. To pray, hope and don’t worry.”
Several attendees didn’t let the opportunity to venerate the relics and make a third-class relic of their own go to waste. Shawn Curley, a parishioner of the Cathedral, touched rosaries from Lourdes, France, as well as holy cards of Blessed Pier Frassati to the relics as an intercession for her friend who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
Having the opportunity to venerate relics, “just makes it real and personable,” Curley said. “Having something that belonged to your grandmother or someone in your family, something that is special that you can touch to a relic of a saint and then hold it and pray with it is a special gift of the Catholic Church.”
Ryan Hinlo, a member of the YCP leadership team and a parishioner of Church of the Assumption, made a third-class relic of the rosary gifted to him by his now wife, Meredith, during the early days of their relationship.
“It’s been a big piece of our relationship,” Hinlo said.
While Genevieve Viduya, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville, didn’t bring a sacramental with her, she didn’t pass up the opportunity to venerate the relics.
“One of my friends has cancer, and she felt like Padre Pio had been stalking her. So, our Women’s group (the Young Adult Women’s Group at IC-Clarksville) recently completed his Novena to ask for her healing. My mom also developed a strong devotion after visiting his tomb in Italy a couple of years ago,” she explained. “Padre Pio’s life is so inspiring and unique. God blessed him in so many ways, but he also suffered and sacrificed a great deal.”
After the opportunity to venerate the relics, attendees were addressed by Frank Simpson, former head coach, now assistant coach, of the wrestling team at Montgomery Bell Academy and the father of Father Mark Simpson, who spoke about how to share the Catholic faith in the workplace. He said he simply shares what the Catholic Church teaches and believes in and why the Catholic Church believes it. In doing so, after having these conversations with a colleague, who was deeply involved in the Methodist Church, eventually converted to Catholicism with Simpson serving as his sponsor.
“You need to be willing to share your Catholic faith with anyone willing to listen. Don’t be critical of their beliefs. If you do, they will think you’re judging them,” Simpson explained. “Be joyous in your attitude. Let them know we’re not perfect. We’re working hard to be perfect. We love sinners.
“Never give up on someone who is reaching out. They are reaching out for answers to their questions, and you may not be giving them the answers they want right away, so be patient, be kind, and be graceful.”
The key to this, he said, is to simply be joyful because “people want to be around happy people.”
“Your challenge as a young Catholic in today’s world is to be a beacon of light for those around you,” Simpson concluded. “You’ve had the chance to influence people in the right direction. It is up to you to be patient with those, for they are curious. Be kind to them, for they are reaching out to discover your joy and to be graceful, for they need comfort.”
For more information about YCP Nashville, visit www.ycpnashville.org.
For more information about the Padre Pio Prayer Group Nashville, visit padrepionashville.blog/.