By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

The great devotion to St. Pio of Pietrelcina at Holy Savior Parish in Norristown spans 38 years, making it the longest running Padre Pio prayer group in the United States, according to Dolores Cherosky, the group’s director.

The group, which was founded by Vera Calandra and run under her leadership for 20 years, draws about 200 people every month for confession, the rosary, Mass and a blessing with one of Padre Pio’s gloves.##M[read more]##

Cherosky was elected the director when Calandra moved to Barto, Pa., where she founded the National Center for Padre Pio, today a national pilgrimage site.

Cherosky has been serving as director for the past 18 years, which she calls her own “little miracle”.

“When I first read about Padre Pio I was fascinated,” Cherosky said. “I couldn’t believe that in this day and age someone could have the wounds of Christ and that he spent 18 hours a day in the confessional. Then I started reading about the miracles that were happening from his intercession.”

Although raised a Catholic, Cherosky admits, “I wasn’t such a great Catholic at that time and I never would have thought then that I would one day become the director of a Padre Pio prayer group,” but she was drawn by what she perceived to be the saint’s holiness.

And she decided to write to Padre Pio. In the 10 she wrote to him before his death, Cherosky went through a spiritual transformation, she said.

“I started going to church more and praying the rosary. I became more appreciative of my Catholic faith,” she said.

She has seen many physical miracles that she attributes to the intercession of St. Pio, but it’s the spiritual healings that touch her most, she said.

“We’ve seen people return to the Church after being away many years. Padre Pio thought spiritual healing was most important since he spent 18 hours a day in the confessional. I think so too. He said, ‘I can refuse no one’ and ‘Pray, hope and don’t worry.’ To me he said, ‘Trust in the infinite goodness of God.’

“Those are the things I hold on to because no matter what the outcome – sometimes there are cures and sometimes there aren’t physical cures – it’s God’s will and, He has His own plan. Sometimes it’s the spiritual healing people need more,” she said.

The prayer group meets every first Saturday of the month beginning with the rosary at 8:40 a.m. followed by Mass.

“Padre Pio had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. He called her ‘My little mama.’ He called the rosary a weapon and said, ‘I wish I had a voice loud enough to shout to the whole world, ‘Love the Blessed Mother,'” Cherosky said.

After Mass people have the opportunity to be blessed with one of Padre Pio’s gloves, which was given to Cherosky by the friars when she visited San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, in 1970.

“I promised I would always use it for the sick and I have,” she said.

The glove or any other article of clothing worn by a saint is important because of its symbolic significance, Cherosky said.

“We are drawn to it because it was close to someone holy and that person was holy because they were so close to God. It shows us how close we can become if we try, if we give God a chance,” she said. “God uses people to do that, like Padre Pio and St. Therese. He uses them to show us the way.”

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.