STO. TOMAS, Batangas, Jan. 23, 2017 – “There is no limit to the Divine Mercy!”
These words will always hold true in the National Shrine and Parish of Saint Padre Pio as she continues her mission after serving as one of the main venues for the recently-concluded 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM4).
Thousands of delegates and pilgrims experienced the mercy of God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, giving witness to the theme of the third day of WACOM4 “The Church is a Forgiven and Forgiving Community: Celebrating God’s mercy to sinners”.
Charism of St. Padre Pio
“The charism of St. Padre Pio brings people to come to him and seek his intercession. St. Padre Pio is a saint of our time who lived in the last century as a holy priest,” said shrine rector and parish priest Fr. Joselin C. Gonda in an interview with CBCPNews.
“With a vision to build a sanctuary that is centered on Jesus Christ, as inspired by St. Padre Pio, whose holiness was grounded on his great love for the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Holy Mary – whom he fondly called his heavenly mother – St. Padre Pio Parish and Shrine was established,” explained the priest.
Foreigners, ‘balikbayans’, and more
Since the establishment of the parish in 2003, the declaration of the church as an archdiocesan shrine in 2008, and as a national shrine in 2015, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have come to this place to ask for blessings from God through the intercession of St. Padre Pio.
“These devotees started to come from the nearby parishes of the Archdiocese of Lipa until it spread to the whole province of Batangas. Soon, people from neighboring provinces and dioceses started to arrive,” said Gonda.
“At present, devotees come from all over the country. A good number of foreigners and ‘balikbayans’ continue to come to express their devotion to the beloved saint.”
The priest added: “Generally, these devotees come to be blessed through the saint’s intercession. Once they receive the blessings they asked for, they come back to express their gratitude by offering flowers or candles as a manifestation of thanksgiving for grace received.”
Chapel with14 confessionals
The St. John Mary Vianney Chapel, specifically constructed for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, has 14 confessionals to accommodate a huge numbers of pilgrims.
“People come here mainly to participate in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and other sacraments,” shared Gonda.
Priests regularly offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to the devotees and pilgrims before the celebration of the Mass every “Padre Pio Day”, the 23rd day of the month, and on every first and third Saturday of the month.
“As the volume of pilgrims asking for reconciliation continued to increase since the Jubilee of Mercy, we now station a priest to be available for confessions from the opening time of the shrines in the morning until closing time in the evening each day,” the parish priest disclosed. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)