Pilgrim profile: Sister Maria Patricia

By Brandon Gates and Nathan Vickers

Sister Maria Patricia. | Photo by Nathan Vickers.

Sister Maria Patricia. | Photo by Nathan Vickers.

Roman Catholics travel to the south of Italy to visit the shrine of a popular saint in San Giovanni Rotondo because they believe this journey will change their lives. It is the second-most visited Catholic shrine in the world and it centers on the tomb of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a Capuchin friar and priest known for his unwavering devotion to God, care for the sick and supernatural gifts.

During a pilgrimage to the quaint town of over 26,000 residents, it is customary to visit Padre Pio’s tomb — located in the basement of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Visitors touch the casket of the revered saint, asking for miracles. A touch so powerful, Sister Maria Patricia never left San Giovanni Rotondo after her brush with the saint.

“I’m very happy because Padre Pio is a great saint,” Patricia said with a slight smile. “I came from a poor family, but God brought me here.”

Patricia is from Tamil Nadu, India and became a nun a little over 20 years ago. She had always hoped to move to Italy after she first visited in 1999. She said that God allowed her to serve in Rome and the Philippines before her most recent journey to this city on the hill in 2004.

“I was thinking, how can I go to Italy,” said Patricia. “That location is the gift of God. God chooses, not you.”

Patricia said her faith in the power of Saint Pio stemmed from the Capuchin friar’s piety. She said his closeness with God was a model for all believers.

“Padre Pio was very prayerful,” she said. “If we are not prayerful we don’t have that experience with God. You can’t make that experience for yourself, you have to talk with God.”

Patricia, who comes from the Apostles of Jesus Crucified order, went on to say that she believed in Pio’s power as a second iteration of Christ.

“[Pio] saved many souls,” she said. “Christ is living, but Padre Pio is a symbol like that. Padre Pio is now in Christ.”

Patricia had just left the Saturday morning mass which she routinely attends to ponder the many miracles reported by Pio’s followers. She said she was particularly inspired by the saint’s ability to heal both the physically and spiritually ill, something she hopes to do in her own work as a nun. For that, Padre Pio is her inspiration.

“We must meditate on the saints,” she said as the noon bells rung in the church behind her. “Because we cannot help ourselves, especially for our soul.”

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