Calabria, Giovanni (John), St.
CALABRIA, GIOVANNI (JOHN), ST.
Founder of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence and Poor Women Servants of the Divine Providence (PSDP); b. Verona, Italy, Oct. 8, 1873; d. San Zeno, Italy, Dec. 4, 1954. When the financial situation of his nearly destitute family worsened at the death of his father, twelve-year-old Giovanni found employment as an errand boy. Despite his poverty and other difficulties, he pursued his priestly vocation. His seminary studies were interrupted by a mandatory two years of military service during which he founded an association to care for the convalescent poor. He was ordained in 1901.
Calabria's work with the poor began while he was still in the seminary when he volunteered to care for typhus victims. As a parish priest he found a young, abused runaway shivering in the cold. Taking the boy into his home, he gave him his bed. Thus began a career that earned him the title, "the apostle of the street children." St. Giovanni built the Casa Buoni Fanciulli in 1907, the first in a series of shelters for abandoned adolescents throughout Italy. He also constructed others for the elderly and ill. His spirituality, based on Matthew 25, taught him to see the face of Christ in the suffering. It led him to found congregations for both men and women, as well as to acts of charity, like the care of chimney sweeps during the winter and the integration of the disabled into the working world. His longing for Christian unity caused him to correspond frequently with the author C. S. Lewis and others of like mind. Upon his death his remains were buried in his congregation's motherhouse at Verona.
Divine Providence brothers and sisters live in communities in Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Angola, Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, Romania, and India. In addition to those in consecrated religious life, Don Calabria's spirituality imbues several lay associations, including the Associazione ex Allievi (for former students of Don Calabria centers), Spazio Fiorito (young people and families involved in educational, spiritual, and social activities), Unione Medico Missionaria Italiana (doctors who work in lesser developed countries to train indigenous doctors and nurses and to raise funds to assist children), and Association Francesco Perez (coordinates activities of volunteers). Don Calabria's work continues through these organizations in hospitals, prisons, technical schools, drug treatment centers, parishes, and social service centers. Calabria was beatified (April 17, 1987) and canonized (April 18, 1999) by Pope John Paul II.
Feast: Dec. 4.
Bibliography: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition 15(1988): 2, 5. e. besozzi, Carisma e processi organizzativi (Milan 1984). g. gecchele, Biografia spirituale del servo di Dio don Giovanni Calabria (Rome 1966). m. gadili, San Giovanni Calabria: biografia ufficiale (Cinisello Balsamo [Milan], Italy 1999). c. s. lewis, The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis, tr. m. moynihan (South Bend, Ind. 1998). g. g. pesenti, Storia di una integrazione affettiva (Dolo 1974). i. schuster, L'epistolario card. Schuster-don Calabria (1945–1954) (Milan 1989). Vatican Information Service (April 18, 1999).
[k. i. rabenstein]