Taking a trip here can be a very profound experience. Many, perhaps most residents of South Jersey don’t even know that it’s right nearby.

If you have ever driven down Route 40 in Buena Vista Township near Vineland, New Jersey, you’ve most likely seen a very uniquely constructed shrine along a beautiful farm field by the roadside.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is all about. Here’s the story of a Saint, a Shrine, and (to date) the 274 documented miracles that have been performed.

The shrine is a magnificently constructed holy edifice built in recognition and honor to the spirit of the renowned Saint Padre Pio.

Saint Padre Pio was born as Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, in a very small town of Southern Italy.

He was then given the name “Francisco” in honor of St. Francis of Assissi, who is one of the most venerated religious figures in all of Christianity. Francis made it his mission to emulate Jesus Christ in every way imaginable and strived throughout a lifetime to carry out his work.

So, the naming of Forgone in his honor was a precursor to future events which were sure to come.

It was on September 20, 1918, when Francisco was serving as a Priest, that he was documented to have received the “wounds” of Christ’s crucifixion upon his body without any human force applied.

They simply appeared upon his hands, feet, and side. It was the first recorded time in history that a Priest was reported to have ever received the stigmata.

This stigmata upon Padre Pio lasted for more than 50 years, upon which he would perform healing and other miracles throughout these five decades for the joy of the believers and the discontent of the non-believers as well.

Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio a Saint on June 16, 2002, in virtue of his many miracles of healing others, of bilocation (the ability for a person or object of some kind to be located in two places at the same time), and the documented Stigmata that he received himself.

Mind blowing, isn’t it?

The Franciscan Priest shared the same wounds as Christ upon his hands, side, and feet. It is said that even his blood bore a fragrant aroma in scent.

This story of the Atlantic County Shrine begins with trucking, farm produces entrepreneurs and philanthropists Pete and Marie Dandrea of Buena, NJ, who once took a trip to Italy in 1997.

Pete & Maria Dandrea - TSM Harry Hurley
Pete & Maria Dandrea - TSM Harry Hurley
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It was there that Marie decided to take a side trip to visit Padre Pio’s home in Pietrelcina, a small farming town.

Interestingly enough, Landisville New Jersey, the home to the Shrine is also a small farming town. To add more coincidence, or perhaps significance, the site chosen by The Dandrea’s for the Shrine to Padre Pio was also a former Squash field, the favorite and most significant farm and produce to Padre Pio in his hometown in Italy.

Padre Pio’s Mother also bore the Maiden name of Dandrea. Is this a coincidence, or was it preordained?

It was here that Marie and several of her friends originally placed a small statue of Padre Pio on a section of plywood in the field of the former squash farm and proceeded to pray The Rosary amongst each other.

This event became more regular and continued to grow among the towns folk. It was then that Marie knew she had to do something. The idea for a large Shrine dedicated to Padre Pio came to her in a vision which she and her husband Pete, the late, great former Deputy Sheriff of Atlantic County, were intent on bringing to fruition.

Marie Dandrea’s dream, conceived in 1997, was finally realized in 2002 when the fully constructed Shrine to Padre Pio was completed in conjunction fortuitously with the Sainthood of Padre Pio himself.

The result is a four-story monument and three holy statues set upon ten-acre farmland owned by The Dandrea’s.

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One of the sacred artifacts of the shrine includes a “Glove Relic” (which consists of part of an actual glove that Saint Padre Pio wore frequently to hide his stigmata wounds from the public).

The bronze statue of Saint Padre Pio is surrounded by a four-story steel frame which is then covered with a stucco finish. St. Padre Pio’s statue is accompanied by a life-sized statue of The Blessed Mother and on the other side a white stone-style statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

TSM Harry Hurley
TSM Harry Hurley
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It is at this special place of observance where countless tens of thousands of people gather in small and large crowds to offer blessings to Saint Padre Pio and request his grant of miracles upon them and their loved ones for miraculous intercession.

Full view of The Shrine and accompanying statues of The Blessed Mother and Sacred Heart of Jesus.  TSM Harry Hurley
Full view of The Shrine and accompanying statues of The Blessed Mother and Sacred Heart of Jesus.  TSM Harry Hurley
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Whether you may believe in miracles or not, this glorious site has been home to 274 documented miracles on record, with so many more believed to have been realized granted but was unrecorded.

Special thanks to Marie and Pete Dandrea for their vision and leadership, and all of the supporters of this shrine that it continues to exist and be of service to others for 20 years this June 2022.

It remains a most holy inspired location where lives have been saved, changed, and otherwise positively affected on a daily basis.

Go visit this remarkable uplifting place of faith if you have not already done so.  As Saint Padre Pio said at all times, “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.”

These are very appropriate thoughts for the challenging times which we have all faced during these past two years.

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