By Carley Dangona|
SPRINGFIELD – A rare event is expected to draw thousands of people from surrounding regions to view a religious artifact that will be on display this September.
St. Anthony Maronite Rite Catholic Church, 375 Island Pond Road, announced on June 13 that it would host a relic of St. Anthony of Padua from Sept. 6 to 14. The relic consists of the St. Anthony’s bones that will be encased in a statue of the saint and accompanied by an urn. Special events such as a lecture series, daily Mass and multicultural heritage celebrations will take place in conjunction with the visit.
“It’s an opportunity to see, venerate and pray to St. Anthony,” Deacon Enzo DiGiacomo said. “Revitalization of these parishioners not only to St. Anthony, but to their faith, to Christ, to God.”
Father George Zina described St. Anthony as “a friend to everyone, Christian and non-Christian.” Zina arranged for the relic to stay for an extended period. He said that relics usually visit a church for a day. The relic is from the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, where Zina studied.
He explained the history of the local church and St. Anthony. In 1906, the church’s name and mission was changed to honor St. Anthony after Monsignor Paul Abi Saab fell ill and was healed after reciting the novena of St. Anthony.
DiGiacomo discussed the importance of the event to this area.
“What have we learned over 2,000 years? We still have war, we still have killing and we just miss two things – two beautiful commandments that God gave us. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If you can see people through the image in your eyes of God, there’s no room for any malice to anyone. That’s what this is all about. It’s not just St. Anthony to come and look and venerate. It is to get a new essence of our understanding of people,” he said.
The deacon described the hope the relic brings to believers.
“It is twofold. One is to give all the people here in the area, who have been ravaged and had problems, the opportunity to participate in the thank you to the Lord for where we were and where we are. The second thing is another thank you. That tornado [June 1, 2011] when it came, [it] just so happens it split right around this church and not one thing except for a minor window was damaged – nothing else.”
He continued, “It was on a Wednesday when the [St. Anthony] Women’s Guild had the pasta supper night, by coincidence, so the Cedars [the church’s banquet facility] became the headquarters for the Fire Department, the police and all the local community people to come and be rescued and stay overnight. It not only was missed, but it served as a reservoir for all the people that were injured and were homeless.”
DiGiacomo addressed believers that might have strayed from the faith and why they too should participate in the celebration.
“So they can develop a relationship with God. Without that relationship, they don’t have themselves in the same light and they don’t see people in the same eyes as God sees them. So, this gives people an opportunity to return and get to that point where they can see people through the eyes of God,” he stated.
For more details about the relic and special events, visit www.saintanthonysrelic.com or call 732-0589. For more information about the church, go to www.saintanthonyschurch.org. The festivities are open to the public.
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