Padre Pio inspires help for homeless veterans in Maryland

Padre Pio.
Padre Pio.

.- St. Padre Pio’s spiritual life inspired many veterans of the Second World War – and now, his example has helped inspire support for homeless veterans in Maryland.

“Wherever there is suffering in the healing process, Padre Pio has been known to bring relief,” Luciano Lamonarca, president and CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation, told CNA March 30.

“Because we know that veterans suffer as much as other people, we decided to establish a kind of annual grant that would help the veterans in having some relief,” he said.

The effort also recognizes their service to their country.

The New York-based Saint Pio Foundation promotes the charism of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, colloquially known as “Padre Pio.” The Franciscan Capuchin priest was a stigmatist, a mystic and a miracle-worker. He ministered in the Italian city of San Giovanni Rotondo from 1916 until his death in 1968.

The foundation has made its first donation of $20,000 to the homeless veterans program of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Maryland Health Care System. Another $10,000 grant is planned for this year.

The donation aims to provide homeless veterans with transportation assistance, meals, clothing, and household supplies when they get apartments. The donation will also support the clothing room, the kitchen and the laundry facility at the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Community Resource & Referral Center, which supports homeless veterans.

Lamonarca said some of the homeless veterans are very poor and sometimes cannot afford to travel to the facility to eat or to spend the night. The foundation acts in Padre Pio’s name “to bring any relief to suffering” and to give food and shelter to those who live on the street.

“We like to bring Padre Pio out to the people,” he said.

The foundation cited Padre Pio’s service in the Italian army’s medical corps during World War I. He befriended many military personnel during World War II, including American servicemen.

Lamonarca said Padre Pio had a “very strong” relationship with many American servicemen.

“Many people do not know that Padre Pio got to be known in the United States after the Second World War because all the G.I.s returning to this country were speaking about him. Many of them actually returned to San Giovanni Rotondo to live close to Padre Pio while he was alive. Some of them even became priests.”

VA officials welcomed the support.

“We’re grateful that the Saint Pio Foundation has recognized our efforts to serve homeless veterans,” Dr. Adam M. Robinson, director of the VA Maryland Health Care System said March 24.

The foundation’s other supported projects include the Home for the Relief of Suffering and Padre Pio’s Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy; the Archdiocese for Military Services; and the Path to Peace Foundation, which complements the work of the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations.

Lamonarca has a special devotion to Padre Pio, a devotion which strengthened when he immigrated to America.

“He has touched so many lives and converted many people,” he said. “He touched my life through his motto ‘pray, hope and don’t worry’.”

He said he hopes that the foundation’s support will help veterans learn more about Padre Pio’s life and encourage them “to pray to Padre Pio daily, to ask Padre Pio to help them carry on through their pain and their suffering and to hope in Jesus, with the intercession of Padre Pio.”

“Padre Pio has been known internationally. I like to say he’s not just a saint that belongs to the Catholic Church. He belongs to any kind of people of faith.”

The foundation will hold its second annual award ceremony on May 27 at the Naval Heritage Center in Washington, D.C. Honorees include veterans’ advocates like actor Gary Sinise and Jim Nicholson, former U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs and past U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Guests at the dinner include Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio of the Holy See heading the permanent observer mission to the United Nations and to the Organization of American States.

The foundation’s website is www.SaintPioFoundation.org.

Tags: Padre Pio, Veterans