St. Agnes parishioner shares 1940s
photographs of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Pio of Pietrelcina is seen celebrating Mass in Italy in this undated photograph. The photos were made by the late Sergeant Herbert John Ebert during World War II in Italy. Ebert’s daughter Ellen McKnight, a member of St. Agnes Church, wanted to share the photos now that St. Pio’s relics will be on display at the Cathedral of the Assumption in June. (Photos Special to The Record)

The late Sergeant Herbert John Ebert is seen in this undated photo.

When Ellen McKnight found out relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina will be on display at the Cathedral of the Assumption in June, she immediately thought of the photos her father had taken of Padre Pio in Italy during World War II.

McKnight’s father, the late Sergeant Herbert John Ebert, was a photographer with the 18th Air Defense Depot of the U.S. Army Air Corps. McKnight, a member of St. Agnes Church, said her father died in the 1980s and she’s kept the photos in her attic since.

She doesn’t have much information about the black and white stills showing the saint celebrating Mass and U.S. servicemen meeting him, but she believes the photos were taken in 1944 while her father was serving in Italy.

“He would have been there to take photos and be in awe,” said McKnight.

A member of the U.S. Army Air Corps is seen with St. Pio in Italy in this undated photograph by the late Sergeant Herbert John Ebert during World War II in Italy.

Her father was not Catholic but he was fascinated by the church and its history, she said, noting that he kept a framed image of the Shroud of Turin in his bedroom. He was widowed when McKnight and her two sisters were children and he promised their mother that he’d raise their daughters in the Catholic faith.

“As his daughter, being able to share these (photographs) is very important to me. I’m sharing part of my father’s work,” she said.

Relics of St. Pio, known as Padre Pio in his lifetime, are being brought to the area by the Saint Pio Foundation. The foundation’s website explains that American servicemen, particularly those stationed at an airbase in Foggia, Italy, near his Capuchin monastery, helped bring word of his life and influence to the United States.

Members of the U.S. Army Air Corps are seen in this undated photograph with St. Pio of Pietrelcina in Italy, seated. The photograph was made by the late Sergeant Herbert John Ebert during World War II. His daughter, Ellen McKnight, is sharing the images before a scheduled tour of St. Pio’s relics comes to Louisville.

“It is indeed thanks to these veterans that Padre Pio and his teachings were first brought to the U.S., and to them, we give our thanks for helping to make the legacy of Padre Pio known to the faithful of our country,” says the website, saintpiofoundation.org.

The relics, including a lock of the saint’s hair, crusts of his wounds and a piece of his mantle, will be available for public veneration at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St., from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 3 and 4. Father Martin Linebach, rector of the cathedral, will celebrate a Mass in honor of St. Pio at 5:30 p.m. June 4.

According to the Saint Pio Foundation, the nonprofit dedicated to promoting the legacy and teachings of St. Pio, he was born May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, in southern Italy. He joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin at the age of 15 and was ordained a priest in 1910.

In 1918 the five wounds of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion appeared on his body and remained there until his death in 1968. In 1956, St. Pio founded the Home for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, which is still in operation today.

He was canonized on June 16, 2002, by St. John Paul II.

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