Padre Pio Miracle Healing Amazes Future U.S. Surgeon General

Her disease was incurable. Dr. Koop couldn’t help — but Padre Pio could!

The body of Padre Pio is displayed for the veneration of the faithful in a part-glass coffin in the crypt of the old Church of St. Mary of Grace at San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, on April 24, 2008.
The body of Padre Pio is displayed for the veneration of the faithful in a part-glass coffin in the crypt of the old Church of St. Mary of Grace at San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, on April 24, 2008. (photo: Mario Laporta / AFP via Getty Images)

You might remember C. Everett Koop — he served as U.S. Surgeon General under President Reagan from1981 through 1989. Dr. Koop, who died in 2013, was best known for raising our national awareness regarding the health dangers of cigarette smoking. He established a government policy toward AIDS. Koop advocated for the Baby Doe Rules, which mandate that physicians and hospitals must provide maximal care to infants who are severely impaired, or face censure for medical neglect. 

Although Koop was “personally opposed” to abortion, he declined to report that the procedure posed a serious health hazard to the women who obtained legal abortions. In Whatever Happened to the Human Race, which he cowrote with evangelical Francis A. Schaeffer, Koop analyzed the widespread implications and frightening loss of human rights brought on by today’s practices of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.


Dr. Koop’s Greatest Challenge

Before being named Surgeon General, Koop was a pediatric surgeon who achieved international recognition for successfully separating conjoined twins and for advancing the field of pediatric surgery with new lifesaving procedures. He met his greatest challenge, though, in 1966 in the case of little Vera Marie Calandra. 

Vera Marie was the fifth child of Harry and Vera Calandra, operators of a small grocery store in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Vera Marie was born with a congenital kidney condition that threatened her life. Dr. Koop performed several surgeries on the infant’s severe urinary tract defects at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, finally removing her bladder and warning her parents that she could not live long that way, and that the child was certain to die.  


Intervention of Padre Pio

Vera Calandra was not willing to simply wait while her daughter grew weaker and closer to death. Calandra had read of the miracles of Padre Pio, and in 1968 — just a few weeks before the friar’s death — she was moved to travel with her seriously ill toddler to his monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. Padre Pio received Mrs. Calandra and two of her children, including the sickly Vera Marie. He blessed them and placed his sore, wounded hands upon the children’s foreheads.

Upon the Calandras’ return home, Dr. Koop again examined the young Vera Marie at Children’s Hospital and discovered, to his amazement, that a small rudimentary bladder was growing to replace the one which he had surgically removed. It was medically inexplicable, doctors said. Since Padre Pio was still alive at the time of the miracle, that case cannot be counted as one of the miracles necessary for canonization; but the family is grateful nonetheless, and believes it was Padre Pio’s prayer that restored Vera Maria to full health.

Vera Maria did recover to live a normal life. Her mother Vera, after promising God that she would spread the word about the miracle worker if her daughter were to live, established the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania. 

According to the Centre’s website, the National Centre for Padre Pio has been recognized by the Holy See for its spiritual work. Mr. and Mrs. Calandra had many audiences with Pope John Paul II, and were invited to attend many Masses in his private chapel. In 1987, Mrs. Calandra received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice decoration, an honor bestowed by the pope for outstanding work with the Catholic Church. On May 2, 1999, during the beatification ceremony of Padre Pio in Rome, Mrs. Calandra was given the great privilege of representing the United States and was asked to read the first reading of the Mass.

Vera Marie, now fully grown, serves as the Centre’s assistant manager and vice president.