Padre Pio helped parish through propane blast

  • August 25, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - A barbecue, held at St. Norbert’s Catholic Church Aug. 9 to mark the one-year anniversary of a massive propane explosion that rocked the surrounding Toronto neighbourhood was bittersweet.

“Even though people are (still) going through hard times, we have to consider ourselves lucky — in a way it could have been a lot worse,” said Tony Desanto, one of the barbecue organizers.

The barbecue gathered together a community, mostly of Italian Catholics, who awoke in the middle of the night Aug. 10, 2008 to find the Sunrise Propane distribution plant on Murray Road literally exploding — sending a mushroom cloud of fire high into the city sky and blasting apart the homes across the street, injuring several occupants. Twelve-thousand residents were temporarily displaced and today, all but one of the dozen or so homes that line Murray Road are still uninhabited because of reconstruction.

But the St. Norbert’s community later learned from one of its own, Lucia Padula, who was on a pilgrimage in Italy that week, that during a special Mass on the day of the blast, the parish was being prayed for — to none other than the patron saint of emergency workers, St. Padre Pio.

“There were just two people killed, I mean there should have been hundreds, right? It was a miracle,” said Fr. Xavier De Pinto, pastor at St. Norbert’s.

Aug. 10 is, coincidentally, the anniversary of St. Padre Pio’s ordination, and was the day chosen at his shrine to officially accept St. Norbert’s as a St. Padre Pio prayer group, a chapter that would foster prayer and a devotion to the saint in the parish community, while raising money for the hospital he founded.

“So on the actual date of the explosion, there they were praying for our community as we start this new prayer group so we have in the back of our church (on the charter) now the actual date of the blast,” De Pinto said.

James Durling and Bice Amoroso-Durling’s house is directly across the street from where the blast occurred. They believe it is a miracle they survived.

“It had to have been a miracle — that’s what a lot of people were telling us,” Amoroso-Durling said.

During the night, the couple awakened to the roof collapsing on top of them, she said. Her husband suffered a gash to his head. “Our street really bore the brunt of it.”

A life-long resident of the neighbourhood, Amoroso-Durling and her husband are currently living with her parents, as the couple, married and moved into their home less than a year before the explosion, are among the first to have their home rebuilt.

But the couple is waiting for another miracle as they fight the city over costs for water and sewage connections. A petition they created, available on St. Norbert’s web site (, asks for support in opposing a city by-law that will have them and several other residents pay an $11,000 fee for the connections on city property.

“I approached Fr. Xavier in getting support (because) it’s become for us a matter of principle,” said Amoroso-Durling.

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