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One night while on duty, Collins performed Mass for the aging priest. Father Bill says that as he presented Padre Pio with the body of Christ, the Italian momentarily levitated off the ground. When Collins then gave him the chalice, Padre Pio again achieved liftoff.
Beyond the miracles attributed to the Padre, Father Bill notes that he was also intensely devoted to the poor, living a life almost completely devoid of material possessions. "In his own way," says Father Collins, "Padre Pio was and is as influential among the poor and the needy in Italy as Mother Teresa was among the whole world."
Father Bill is not the man responsible for bringing Padre Pio to Broward County. Brother Alphonsus Ryan, a Capuchin friar from Dublin, received the relic in Italy many years ago from a priest who took care of Padre Pio. After Padre Pio's beatification in May, Ryan began using the relic in healing services. He blessed 1500 people with the cross on the day of the beatification ceremony. The cross is now used at Mass on the first Thursday of each month at Ryan's friary and it is often taken to local hospitals to bless people who are sick.
Ryan came to Fort Lauderdale for what he hoped would be a vacation. "It can be very tiring," the brother says of blessing people. "Very demanding." Ryan's host in the States, who wishes to be referred to only as a "wealthy socialite," asked him to pack the piece of Padre Pio in his suitcase. The Sea Ranch Lakes resident claims that her daughter was cured from a serious kidney ailment by the intervention of Padre Pio.
"I wanted to touch the relic," she says. "But then, when it got here, I realized that as many people as possible should touch the relic."
Hence the service at Saint Henry's. When demand soared beyond expectation, a second service was added for last Friday morning at Saint Maurice Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale. That Mass attracted about 75 people. "Honestly, I was hoping to keep it quiet," Ryan says of the services.
Despite his unexpected healing workload (Ryan actually skipped the second service), Ryan says he is enjoying his trip to South Florida. "America is not what I'd foreseen on the television," he says. "It's wonderful!"
Let's hope Padre Pio had a good time as well.