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Padre Pio Comes to Louisiana: Saint Pio's Miracle Cures Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Don't ever think "a miracle can't happen to me." This miracle happened in my own backyard, and not just to a friend of a friend, but to my friends

Don't ever say "miracles don't happen anymore" or "the age of miracles is over". This just happened.    

Don't ever think "I'm past the point of a miracle". My friend was healed of an incurable disease, which she had suffered from for decades. Five decades!

Miracles are happening all the time.


I have been meaning to write about this incredible miracle for some time. 

Here are my friends Tom and Donna Hildebrandt:

Tom and I first met because our Knights of Columbus councils worked together on a few projects. Together, with a few other friends, we started the Men of the Immaculata, an organization that puts together an annual Catholic men's conference


Tom and Donna Hildebrandt

Tom and Donna were married in 1972. The very next year, Donna was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The next twenty years were an unrelenting slide into jaws of this disease. Donna experienced a major exacerbation of symptoms in 1996 and was pronounced permanently disabled. 

While MS treatments first became available in the 1990s, these have only been effective against the relapsing remitting phase of the disease. By this time, Donna had progressed to the secondary progressive form of the disease. There is no approved treatment for this phase of MS. 


A Pilgrimage to St. Pio's Home

Donna and Tom traveled to Italy in 2016 as part of a church pilgrimage. Their local parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in St. Francisville, Louisiana, made the trip together and were led by their pastor, Father Cary Bani. 


Father Cary Bani entered the priesthood later in life. He was ordained in 2007 at the age of 48. What's especially interesting to this story is Father Bani's previous career. He was a radiologist

In Father Bani's words, “there are many similarities between medicine and theology. It’s about working with people, helping them with their problems whether they are spiritual or physical. You have a certain set of skills to help them live better lives.”[1]

Father Bani's pilgrimage, along with Tom and Donna, reached San Giovanni Rotondo on May 6, 2016.

The Church-Shrine of Saint Mary of Graces and the Convent of Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

San Giovanni Rotondo is best known as the home of Saint Pio ("Padre Pio") of Pietrelcina for most of his adult life. 


Who is Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina?

I'm writing this thinking that the whole world already knows who Padre Pio is, but just in case, here is his story. In a nutshell, St. Pio was the most incredible mystic of the 20th century. 

Multiple people witnessed Padre Pio bilocate, especially so he could hear multiple confessions at once; bear the stigmata, the nail holes and marks of Christ, on his hands; and read people's souls. St. Pio died in 1968 and was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002. 


Looking for your own Padre Pio miracle? Here is a special gift from Tom and Donna. Here is a collection of Tom and Donna's personal prayer cards for St. Pio:


A Blessing from Padre Pio

St. Pio, however, did not roll out the red carpet for the church group, and especially for the longtime sufferer of MS.         

According to Tom, "It was raining very hard as we walked up the walkway from the bus." Secondary progressive MS patients have trouble walking even in the best of conditions. Not only was it raining hard when Donna arrived at St. Pio's home, but there were steps and ramps to climb.  

This was suddenly no obstacle to Donna. "Everyone from our group was amazed [when] Donna made it up the long incline without assistance," Tom describes. 

The church group celebrated Mass in St. Pio's crypt. This was followed by a very special visit. The group met with Father Ermelindo Di Capua, OFM Cap.


A Special Encounter with Father Ermelindo Di Capua, OFM Cap.

Father Ermelindo is the Capuchin friar that assisted St. Pio in the last few years of his life. Here is a photograph of Pope St. John Paul II kneeling at St. Pio's tomb. You can see Father Ermelindo in the background:


Tom and Donna made their trip to Italy just in time. Sadly, Father Ermelindo died on February 22, 2017. Here is the prayer card created for his funeral:


In his life, Father Ermelindo witnessed many miracles like the one described in this article. He will be sorely missed. Thankfully, the friars of San Giovanni Rotondo preserved some his memories and his testimony. 

Here is also a video of Father Ermelindo describing his memories St. Pio: 

Father Ermelindo blessed each member of the group with Padre Pio’s relics. He placed the relic on each of their foreheads, including Donna's. 

St. Pio's relic was less than an inch from the source of all Donna's problems, the so-called "black holes" on her brain. For decades, MRI scans of Donna's brain showed "black holes" slowly spreading across her brain and impairing her motor and cognitive functions.   

Before the group left St. Pio's shrine and monastery, they added Donna's name and condition to the prayer intentions at San Giovanni Rotondo.

Then nothing happened ... 


A Smell of Flowers

For a while, at least. Four months, to be exact. 

Four months later, Tom had prepared dinner for himself and Donna. Suddenly, Donna was unable to eat. Not because of the impairment of motor function, it was something else. The smell of roses. 

Tom asked his wife what was wrong. Donna described a "very strong fragrance" of roses. She asked if Tom could smell them, too. He could not. 


Tom had been reading about St. Pio. He knew that the floral fragrance was a sign of his presence. He relayed this information to his wife, but Tom continued to smell nothing ... except dinner. 

Until ...

Tom and Donna fell asleep that night amazed at what had happened, but not understanding its significance. After a couple of hours, Tom suddenly awakened. He was sound asleep, but the fragrance of flowers was suddenly too intense. 

I have often been awakened by sounds: my alarm, dogs barking, thunder, etc. I have been awakened by touch, like my kids shaking me in the morning to watch cartoons. I have been awakened by sights, like my wife turning on the bedroom lights. I have never been awakened by a smell. Thanks to my children, I have encountered plenty of intense smells while sleeping. Unless affected my some other sense, however, no smell alone has ever interrupted my sleeping. 

Can you imagine how intense the smell of flowers must have been for Tom? Tom didn't just slowly awaken. He sat up straight in bed. 


Confirmation of Padre Pio's Miracle  

Several weeks following their night of flowers, it came time for Donna's regular appointment with her neurologist. As you might expect, something strange happened during that visit.   

Donna scored higher on her disability index score than she had in over twenty years, since before her 1996 exacerbation. She also passed her cognitive test with 100%. This was the highest Donna had ever scored. Ever

Before she met with the neurologist, an MRI was taken of Donna's brain. Every MRI up to this time showed progressively worsening brain atrophy and "black holes" across her brain.


The new MRI revealed no black holes. They were just gone

Donna's neurologist said it is medically impossible for black holes to disappear, let alone heal. 

The Hildebrandts also shared this news with their parish priest, Father Bani. Remember, Father Bani was a licensed radiologist before becoming a priest.  Father Bani, the Hildebrandts' family doctor, and Donna's neurologist are all of one "mind". What happened to Donna was medically impossible. 

To date, Donna's condition continues to improve. It is like the previous fifty years of multiple sclerosis were just wiped away. Her brain has fully healed.  

Please share this message of hope and healing!

St. Pio, pray for us


Special Thanks to Tom and Donna

A big special thanks to Tom and Donna Hildebrandt for providing many of the photographs reproduced herein.  


Padre Pio Footnotes

[1] Barbara Chenevert, "Worth the Wait: Late Vocations Answer God’s Call"Catholic Commentator. 

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