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Anthony Fuina

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Story/photo Courtesy of The Long Island Catholic (June 5, 2002, page 8)

Long Islander believes Padre Pio interceded for him Padre Pio was canonization June 16, 2002

Anthony Fuina displays his statue of Padre Pio. (TLIC photo by Lena Pennino)

By Lena Pennino

(Many people believe they have experienced healings through the intercession of Padre Pio, the stigmatic Capuchin Franciscan priest who will be formally proclaimed a saint on June 16. Here is one Long Islander’s story. The diocese has passed along Anthony Fuina’s story to the Vatican to be considered for investigation, but that does not imply approval.)

Anthony Fuina, a long time parishioner of St.William the Abbot in Seaford, NY, had never heard of Padre Pio, a Franciscan mystic who bore wounds similar to those of Christ, until three years after he had given the Italian priest a lift in his car. Padre Pio had been dead almost 30 years when Mr. Fuina says he spotted him in Massapequa and gave him a ride.

“I can’t believe this”

On that rainy gray day, March 7, 1997, Mr. Fuina, now 67, a retired N.Y.C. firefighter, drove down Division Avenue, Massapequa, when he noticed “what appeared to be a bum” waving at him. Mr. Fuina pointed to himself, as if to say, ‘me?’ The stranger, who had a long beard and was dressed in a speckled white outfit, nodded and asked, “Will you give me a lift, please?” He said he had waited all morning for a ride. Although Mr. Fuina never picked up hitchhikers, for some reason he agreed to take the man to Maria Regina Church, Seaford, as requested. “You have a sickness, would you like to discuss it with me?” said the man, when he was settled into the car, Mr. Fuina recalled.

Mr. Fuina wondered how the man could know he was ill. “Sitting in my car, I was surrounded by a closeness to this man I never felt in my entire life.” Mr. Fuina told him that half of a tumor in his colon had been removed and he was waiting for the biopsy report. “You’re a good man for picking me up,” said the stranger, according to Mr. Fuina. “Would you care if I prayed for you?”

He placed his hand “right here,” said Mr. Fuina, pointing to his left side, and the man began praying unfamiliar prayers in another language. “The electricity that flowed through his hands was so unbelievable,” Mr. Fuina said with tears in his eyes. “The hairs on my head stood up. My skin got like chicken skin.”

Mr. Fuina, a practicing Catholic and Knight of Columbus, called out, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this…I can’t believe this” and asked, “Who are you?” The man didn’t answer but instead asked, “What can’t you believe?” Mr. Fuina explained the electricity pulsing through his body, the euphoric feeling, “The whole car felt like it was floating through the sky.”

“Who are you?”

“The Holy Spirit has entered upon you,” said the stranger who pushed against Mr. Fuina’s stomach twice. “You are healed. You are healed. Pray for those in need and go to healing Masses.” “Who are you?” Mr. Fuina asked again. The stranger answered, “I am the servant of God.” Mr. Fuina let him out of the car near a Carvel, two miles from where the journey began. “I know now why I waited all morning. I was waiting for you,” the man said. Mr. Fuina looked at him again and the figure waved. When the light flicked green, he looked back and “Phoooo, he was gone. I looked for him. I only saw a lady walking with an umbrella.” He looked “through my rearview mirrors and wondered, ‘where did that wonderful man go?’”

“In God’s hands”

When he finally reached the real estate office he’d been heading to, Mr. Fuina told the receptionist everything. “The most beautiful thing just happened to me. I picked up a bum and he prayed over me and made me feel so good…She looked at me like I was a little nuts,” he said with a smile.

On his way home he felt like he was in “God’s hands” and in another “state of being.” He received good news that day from the doctor: the tumor was benign. But it still had to be removed. That night, in bed, he felt tugging near his tumor. It felt like a “couple of pulls and yanks.” When it came time to remove the tumor, the doctor looked into a monitor before the surgery and couldn’t find it. The doctor pumped the colon full of air and looked again. It was gone.“I was healed just like my strange friend told me.” With a bloated stomach, he told his family. “Everyone was happy,” Mr. Fuina said.

“It doesn’t look good.”

His health lasted for three years. In May 2000, at a Communion breakfast Mr. Fuina couldn’t swallow his pancakes. Later in the day, when he couldn’t eat his wife’s spaghetti, he knew something was wrong. When the doctor called in the morning, he and his daughter Stacey picked up the phone. The doctor told Mr. Fuina that cancer had broken through his esophagus wall to the stomach and lymph nodes, near the aorta. He had three to six months to live. “It doesn’t look good,” the doctor told them Instead of going to work that day, Stacey rushed to church to pray for her father and later bought a statue at a religious article store for him. In the evening, she attended a prayer group where a woman gave her a prayer card of a priest, Blessed Padre Pio, a known healer. When she got home it was very late. She stepped downstairs where her father was busy at the computer. She told him that she knew he had cancer. A special prayer card “You’ll be OK,” she said while handing him a statue of the Blessed Mother and the prayer card. He looked at the picture and shouted, “Where do you get this? Where did you get this?” “What’s the matter, Dad? Why, Dad?” Stacey responded. She thought he was upset with her. “This is the man I picked up three years ago!” Mr. Fuina proclaimed. “Dad, this man is dead. It can’t be,” Stacey said.

“Who is he?” the father cried. “All I know is that he goes by the name of Padre Pio. He’s a priest but he’s dead,” she insisted. The father and daughter cried in each other’s arms. “I had found my lost friend and I knew things would work out,” Mr. Fuina recalled.

‘I’ve never seen anything like this’

For six weeks, Mr. Fuina underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At Nassau University Medical Center he awaited his treatments with a peaceful soul. He noticed the smell of flowers in the room. And every time the nurses stepped out the room, he prayed to his Padre.

On August 29, 2000, carrying a small statue of Padre Pio in his pocket, he went to North Shore University Hospital for an endoscopic sonogram, Mr. Fuina drowsily awoke from the test to see his wife was crying over him. His heart sank. Bad news, he thought. “It’s gone,” said the doctor.

“It’s gone.” His wife kissed him again and again. “What are you talking about?” said Mr. Fuina. “It’s not there,” said the doctor. “If you came off the street, I would say you have a perfectly normal esophagus.” “Mr. Fuina had advanced cancer of the esophagus in a life-threatening location,” said Mitchell Karten of the Nassau University Medical Center. Almost two years later, the cancer appears to be gone for good.

Dr. Karten, a Jew, is a spiritual person. He says that he cannot explain Mr. Fuina’s remission anymore than he can explain why children sometimes develop deadly diseases. He is happy that “Mr. Fuina’s faith enabled him to see him through this.”

Mr. Fuina thanks God and Padre Pio’s intercession for his health. “Padre Pio is always with me,” said Mr. Fuina.

Now under his statue of Padre Pio Mr. Fuina stacks papers scribbled with names and stories of people who ask him to seek the intercession of Blessed Padre Pio. Mr. Fuina and his wife will travel to the Vatican to witness the canonization of Padre Pio on June 16 and travel to the new saint’s tomb to leave the pleas and prayers of all sorts of people: parents of babies with leukemia, the elderly sick, people with broken marriages and those with cancer.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre does not conduct any investigations of miracle claims itself. The Chancery has passed Mr. Fuina’s testimony to Father Paolino Rossi, the general postulator for the cause of Blessed Padre Pio for possible investigation. The Office of the General Postulator for the Causes of Saints studies and presents cases of possible saints to the diocesan curia and the Holy See.

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