After being introduced to the life of Padre Pio through reading a book, Mrs. Vera Calandra traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy in 1968 to meet the priest "who worked miracles." She brought two of her small children with her, one very sick little girl named Vera Marie.
Mrs. Calandra had two audiences with Padre Pio where he blessed her and her children, placing his sore wounded hands on their heads. Upon their return to Pennsylvania and yet another consultation at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Calandras were informed that Vera Marie had made "great improvements" and that her prognosis seemed good. The doctors had removed Vera Marie's bladder during one of the many operations she had undergone prior to her pilgrimage to Padre Pio. Their discovery upon her return was a "rudimentary bladder" growing in place of the one they had removed. A Miracle!
While still in Italy, Mrs. Calandra knew in her heart what she must do. She had made a silent promise to Almighty God that if her baby girl were to live, the whole world would know of the greatness of Padre Pio. With the permission of the Friars of San Giovanni Rotondo, Mrs. Calandra began spreading his name in her small community in Pennsylvania. She began a Holy Hour in her Church, which met every 1st Saturday of the month, attracting upwards of 200 faithful every Mass.
Locally, people began visiting the Calandra home to obtain photos and prayers to Padre Pio, which the Friars in San Giovanni Rotondo had now made available. Hometown visitors began sending what few items they were able to obtain from Mrs. Calandra to relatives out of state and thus, the correspondence and large volumes of mail began.
The requests for programs and lectures started pouring in. Mrs. Calandra found herself on airplane after airplane, accepting these speaking engagements and keeping her promise to Almighty God. With the help and support of her devoted husband, children and staff, Mrs. Calandra has spoken in over 1,000 churches, monasteries, seminaries, colleges, universities and convents all around the world; accepting invitations from as far away as Asia, as remote as the Native American Reservations in North Dakota, New Mexico and Montana, and as close to home as the family's Parish.
The National Centre for Padre Pio has been recognized by the Holy See for its spiritual work. Mr. and Mrs. Calandra have had the blessed honor and opportunity to have countless audiences with the Holy Father and to attend many Masses in his private chapel.
In 1987, Mrs. Calandra received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, an honor bestowed by the Pope for outstanding work with the Catholic Church. On Sunday, May 2, during the Beatification Ceremony of Padre Pio in Rome, Italy, Mrs. Calandra was given the great privilege of representing the United States of America and was asked to read the first reading at the Solemn Mass.
In their capacity as founders and staff at the National Centre, the Calandra family annually hosts, educates and ministers to tens of thousands of devotees who yearly visit the center in Barto, Pennsylvania. In addition to the daily duties at the National Centre, the Calandras arrange pilgrimages to San Giovanni, as well as travel worldwide, spreading the message of the life, wounds, words and works of Blessed Pio.