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Bronx mosaic gives props to Padre

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Padre Pio, the saint that was canonized by Pope Paul II in 2002, will now grace the walls of a new mausoleum on the grounds of St. Raymond Cemetery.

On Thursday, September 23, the feast day of Padre Pio, cemetery officials joined with priests from the St. Raymond’s Parish and Our Lady of Assumption Church to celebrate the recent installation of an 8-by-12-foot mural of the saint.

Family members of those buried in the Elizabeth Ann Seton Indoor Mausoleum, located in the Old Cemetery off Balcom Avenue, were also present.

The prayer service officially unveiled the mosaic, which is made up of hundreds of different pieces of colored glass, and was celebrated by Monsignor Donald Dwyer of OLA, who is the Archdiocese of New York’s Vicar for the East Bronx.

The ceremony celebrated the life of Padre Pio, who Catholics believe bore the “stigmata,” or five wounds, of Christ. Pio operated a hospital in Italy before his passing in 1968. Dwyer said that Pio is an inspiration to Catholics everywhere.

“This might be the largest and most beautiful mosaic to Padre Pio in the world, and today is the feast of Padre Pio on the Catholic calendar,” Dwyer said. “One of the things I really like about Padre Pio is that his family actually lived in Jamaica, Queens for about 10 years around the start of the 20th century. So as Bronxites, just across the bridge, we have a special affinity for Padre Pio. He prepared and guided sick people for a happy death in the Christian sense.”

St. Raymond Cemetery is the largest parish cemetery in the United States, and Monsignor John Graham of St. Raymond Church said the parish collaborated with the management of St. Raymond’s Cemetery to make the mosaic a reality. The mosaic was created by Pickel Studios of Florida.

“He is a contemporary saint, very popular with Italian and Irish people, and is the first priest that we are aware of to bear the wounds of Christ,” Graham said. “By bearing the stigmata, he showed us how we can continue to be of service to people even if we are wounded. He is an example of someone working with the cross they have to bear.”

Julie Ann Marisibilo, whose father is buried in the mausoleum, said that she will find tremendous comfort in the mosaic of Padre Pio when she visits his grave. She had even visited Pio’s own grave on a pilgrimage to Pugna, Italy.

“I prayed to him to heal my father, and I am grateful that Padre Pio will be with him for all eternity,” Marisibilio said. “That dad is buried here is extremely comforting for me. I want him back, but this is such a peaceful home.”

The site of the mausoleum was once an office building for the cemetery before it was completely reconstructed, said Frank Mangual, director of office operations of St. Raymond Cemetery.

“I have seen different mosaics and the craftsmanship on this one is really exquisite and remarkable,” Mangual said. “It was shipped in three pieces, and then artisans brought them all together.”

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