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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 81, Summer 1999

Vatican Press Release

Provided by Dan Pater, papal Nuncio to Turkey

VATICAN CITY, APR 14. Next Sunday, John Paul II will canonize “a saint for
our times.” This is how the religious of the Congregation of the Poor
Servants of Divine Providence describe Giovanni Calabria, their founder.
Calabria was born in Verona, Italy in 1873. No sooner ordained a priest, he
dedicated himself to the poor and the suffering. His concern for abandoned
adolescents led him to create a home for them in 1907. Soon after,
additional homes were established in different parts of Italy.
Repeatedly witnessing the suffering caused by the social plagues of our
times, Father Calabria believed that the only remedy was to announce to the
world that God is Father.

This was the driving force behind his decision to found the religious
Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence, with branches for
both men and women.

“Be living Gospels,” he used to say to his religious and to the youth for
whom he created the homes. He also asked them to help everyone they met to
experience the love of God and to show with deeds, that God acts in
history.

Giovanni Calabria died in San Zeno, near Verona, on December 4, 1954. He
was beatified by John Paul II on April 17, 1988. At present, the religious
congregations he founded are in Italy, several countries of Latin America,
Africa, the Philippines, India and Rumania. They have about 100 Sisters and
some 250 men religious. In Rome, they operate a soup kitchen for the poor
where 150 meals are served daily. They also run a vocational orientation
center and a day-service for the mentally ill.
Don Calabria first sent C. S. Lewis a form letter on 1 September 1947,
because of The Screwtape Letters (in Italian “Le lettere di Berlicche”).
The two developed an epistolary friendship in Latin. (See The Latin
Letters.) Lewis wrote his last letter to Calabria on 5 December 1954, the
day after he died.