From soul to sole, East Providence priest raises parishioners’ spirits and heart rates

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EAST PROVIDENCE — When Reverend Scott Pontes moved from his former parish, St. Elizabeth’s, in his hometown of Bristol to his new parish, St. Francis Xavier in East Providence, he brought with him an ability to step from behind the pulpit to deliver real world messages to strengthen the lives of those around him.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, over 100 people from St. Xavier parish and other parts of the country gathered in the parking lot where they used their soles to strengthen their bodies and souls.

“This touches the Holy Spirit and works with God in a different way,” Fr. Pontes said as the group was about to begin a series of exercises.

Fr. Pontes began using an exercise video called “Walk at Home,” created by Pennsylvania fitness expert, Leslie Sansone when he was concerned about his own health. It wasn’t long before Fr. Ponte became a certified instructor and adapted the program for his parishioners. He called it “Pounding Away Pounds With The Padre.” The program came with him to St. Xavier, and so did the enthusiasm.

“We have 200 registered for the walk program,” Fr. Pontes said. “Two times a week we’ll get 60 to 80 people to come.”

Unlike Saturday’s special event, the walk program is held inside where it is air conditioned. There, said Fr. Pontes, husbands, wives, kids and grandparents go through a series of low-impact walking in place exercises that incorporated leg lifts, arm movements and side steps. When the program is followed, one 15 minute workout is equivalent to running 1 mile.

When Ms. Sansone discovered that Fr. Pontes was using her program, she invited the padre to not only use the videos, but star in one as well.

“The Fr. Scott story tells the story of what I did at (St. Elizabeth’s) Bristol,” Fr. Scott said.

That segment is on the DVD “3 Mega Miles,” one of three fitness videos Ms. Sansone produced.

The spirit/body connection drew several participants from outside the Rhode Island area on Saturday, who would otherwise follow the exercise video alone.

“It brings us all together today,” Fr. Pontes said.

Friends, Beth Tessier and Aaron Duffy, drove one and one-half hours from their home in New Hampshire to join in the hour-long group exercise.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Ms. Tessier said.

She follows Ms. Sansone on Facebook and learned about Fr. Pontes event there.

“This was great,” she said.

Fr. Ponte is hoping to expand his unique delivery of Christianity. He will attend the National Christian Wellness Conference where he will receive training in “Holy Yoga,” a cross-fit program.

“It’s scripture-based, as opposed to Buddist-based,” he said.

And to help the entire community, Fr. Pontes’ exercise programs always include a charitable component.

“We’ve raised over $4,000 for those in poverty,” he said. And with many participants arriving with canned goods and other non-perishable foods, there’s another benefit.

“The food pantry downstairs is always fully stocked,” he said.

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