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Venerated Catholic saint touched many lives, including some close to home in Norristown

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On Nov. 10, I traveled to the Norristown Area High School, to attend the annual induction ceremony into the school’s Hall of Fame.

I had learned from my cousin, Michael A. Morabito III, the third generation President of Morabito Baking Co. in Norristown, that my mother, Vera Morabito Calandra, class of 1952, was chosen to be an inductee this year.

Upon arrival, I met a lovely lady, Nancy Santangelo-Collier, class of 1948, who served as my ambassador for the evening. Mrs. Collier, who taught in the Norristown Area School district for 30 years, shared with me that she was part of the founding committee, 41 years ago.

Mrs. Collier introduced me to several members of the Association as well as past inductees, among whom was the Chaplain of the Association, James P. Williams. When I mentioned to him that this story was appear-ing in the Italian American Herald, he was delighted to hear! As it turns out, he was on the original basketball team, founded in Italy in 1968, and won the Coppa Italia, for Naples. There was to be a celebration for the 50th anniversary, however, it was pre-empted by COVID, but, in September, he was invited to Italy with his wife, and in a beautiful ceremony performed by the Mayor of Naples, Jim was made an honorary citizen of the city of Naples.

Mrs. Collier explained that the original association was the Hall of Champions, which included those who excelled in sports and athletics, but was then expanded to include the Hall of Fame, to honor all who excelled in medicine, business, law, government, military, education, industry, religion, engineering and more. Reading through past and current in- ductees was very impressive and this list now includes my mother, Vera Morabito Calandra.

My mother founded the National Centre for Padre Pio here in the United States, its first headquarters in our hometown, Norristown.

My parents were well known in town, being the owners of an Italian American grocery store, one of the first of its kind. My father, Harry Calandra, always credited my mother for her business sense and the success that they enjoyed. Mom was the daughter of Michael Angelo Morabito, founder of the Morabito Baking Co., and his wife, Julia (Pagliaro). The bakery is still in business today, under the direction of a third generation of Morabitos and enjoying great success.

While I was chatting with Mrs. Collier and some of the past inductees, my cousin Michael arrived along with his wife Joanna, who shared something with me that left me speechless.

I had known that my parents were first introduced to Padre Pio from customers to our store, by the name of Logrippo, back in the early 1960s. In fact, my parents were given a book by the Logrippos and I know for a fact, that my mother read the book immediately and kept it in a prominent spot on her bookshelf.

Joanna began to tell me the story of her father’s sister Annamarie, who married her uncle, Felix Logrippo. The newlyweds honey- mooned for two months in Italy, during which time they traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo. Not only did they have the privilege of attend- ing the Mass of Padre Pio, but the young couple were so impressed by the Holy Friar, that they were able to return and obtain an audience with Padre Pio and receive his blessing.

I could not believe what I was hearing. Where Padre Pio is concerned, there are no coincidences. It took these many years and this particular event, to learn the full identity of the couple, chosen by Padre Pio to introduce my mother to him. Annamarie and Felix Logrippo would give my mother precisely what she needed, when the moment would come that she would be called to undertake the great Apostolate for which she was being honored this evening.

I am forever grateful to Joanna Morabito and my cousin Michael for not only informing me of this event honoring my mother, but for sharing the beautiful story that brought the gift of Padre Pio to the Calandra family.

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