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THE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF St. Padre Pio on May 25 is a special day for the parishioners of Santo Padre Pio Parish and Shrine in Santo Tomas, Batangas. Its parish priest, Fr. Jojo Gonda, received a first-class relic of Padre Pio last March 15 when he went to San Giovanni Rotondo with other pilgrims. Fr. Ermilindo di Capua, OFM Capuchin, the only living priest who had been with Padre Pio when the saint was still alive, gave the relic to Fr. Jojo. The relic will be enshrined in the church of Padre Pio in Sto. Tomas and will be used for healing.

Last March 4 to 18, the pilgrimage arranged by Pacific Bound Travel, which is owned by Carlo Behasa, brought Fr. Jojo and the group to Lisbon, Portugal, and Rome, Italy. Significant and striking places were Fatima, Lourdes, Lanciano, Assisi, Loreto, Rome and San Giovanni Rotondo.

Mass at the crypt

Fr. Jojo was given permission to celebrate Mass at the crypt of Padre Pio not only for the Filipino pilgrims but for those from other nations as well. He said he was trembling when he was saying the Mass. Fr. Jojo later asked the Capuchin priest to pray so he will be able to finish building the church in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. Fr. Ermilindo told him to pray to Padre Pio for help. When Fr. Jojo asked the Capuchin priest if he could visit the church when it?s already built, Fr. Ermilindo said ?yes.?

Airline fare paid for

When Fr. Jojo voiced his concern about the airline fare for Fr. Ermilindo to his sister Sonia Gloria, travel agent Carl Behasa and Charley and Tita Velasco said immediately that they will take care of the priest?s round-trip airline fare, pick him up at the airport, give him accommodations and bring him to the blessing of the shrine.

?Salakot?-shaped church

Fr. Jojo envisions the new church to be in the shape of a ?salakot.? Salakot is a local hat. The altar will be on one side, but in the middle of the church will hang the Jubilee Cross of the Archdiocese of Lipa. The Cross has two faces: One side is the image of the Holy Trinity and the other side is the image of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Carl Behasa will sponsor it.

Fr. Jojo feels he was not just called to build the church of Padre Pio, but also to spread the mission to keep the spirit, message and life of Padre Pio?s union with Christ alive?in him, the parishioners, believers and devotees of this great and holy man and priest.

Santa Quiteria

The Philippines has a parish dedicated to Santa Quiteria, who celebrates her feast day on May 22, particularly in Caloocan City. The parish of St. Francis of Assisi and Santa Quiteria covers the barrios of Sangandaan, Baesa and Santa Quiteria, and is located on Santa Quiteria Road, Caloocan. Parish priest is Fr. Rudy Abao, who will lead the celebration with a Mass and procession at 6 a.m. on May 22 and another Mass at 6 p.m.

Lloni Bosano told me she has been a devotee of the saint since she was a little girl. And she testifies to the efficacious intercession of the saint. In her church in Caloocan, the saint is portrayed as beheaded and holding her head in her right hand. But the photo you will see in this page shows what Santa Quiteria looks like in other churches in Spain and Portugal.

Legend of Santa Quiteria

Portuguese religious traditions state that Saint Quiteria was one of nine sisters born at the same time, and they were called the ?nine nonuplet sisters.? They were named Eumelia (Euphemia), Liberata (Virgeforte), Gema (Marinha, Margarida), Genebra, Germana, Basilissa, Marica and Vitoria (Victoria). They were born in Minho to an important Roman military official. Their mother, disgusted at the fact that she had given birth to nine daughters all at once as if she were a common peasant, ordered a maid to take them to a river to drown them. Their father was unaware of their birth.

Disobeying her mistress, however, the maid gave the girls over to some local women who brought them up. As adult women, the nine sisters opposed the worship of Roman gods. When they were brought before their father, he accepted them as his daughters. Their father wanted them to marry Roman officers or other suitors. The nonuplets refused and were imprisoned in a tower. However, they escaped and liberated all of their other prisoners. They subsequently waged a guerrilla war in the mountains against the Roman Empire.

Quiteria was caught and beheaded. Miraculously, however, her body rose up, grabbed her head with her hands, climbed a mountain and stopped in the place where she wanted to be buried. The church in Caloocan portrays her image as beheaded with her right hand holding her head.

Healing Masses

Fr. Diwane Cacao will hold a Healing Mass at 5 p.m. today at the Flight to Egypt Parish in Tanauan, Batangas. On May 22 at 5 p.m., Fr. Cacao will be at the Immaculate Conception Parish in San Pablo City.

The Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guia will celebrate its fiesta on May 19 with a High Mass at 6 p.m. Cardinal Rosales will officiate.