In 1980, Bishop Jesus J. Sison of Tarlac sought for an audience with Mr. Ramon E. Rodriguez, and asked for his assistance in finding a sponsor for the 6 Italian Capuchin priests who were coming to Manila to visits their counterparts in our country. As it was important for Bishop Sison to seek help from a fellow St. Pio devotee, he approached Mr. Rodriguez. He learned of Mr. Rodriguez’s devotion thru his niece who was also the classmate of Mr. Rodriguez’s daughter. Padre Pio was not yet a saint then, but his intercession for the sick was already legendary and publicly known worldwide.
When the six Italian Capuchins arrived, they were initially booked at the Manila Hilton Hotel — but they refused to stay in the 5-star hotel because they thought it prudent to avoid the limelight of the rich and famous as they were sworn to a life of poverty in the Capuchin order. They were arranged to live with Mr. Rodriguez, cramped in 2 guestrooms, which they readily accepted.
With the companionship of Bishop Sison, the Italian Capuchins went around the metropolis and met up with various people and fellow Filipino Capuchins. Their tour went on for a month. It is safe to assume that they were looking for people who could establish a group that would propagate devotion to Padre Pio.
One of the Capuchin priest in the group, Rev. Fr. Alessio Parente, OFM-Cap promised to return to the Philippines to continue what they had started during their visit. True to his words, he returned a year later together with Harry and Vera Calandra, and other American volunteers from the National Center of Padre Pio USA in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Vera Calandra assisted in the formation of the first Padre Pio prayer group, which included Mr. Rodriguez, and his wife, Digna Rodriguez. The Centre was officially registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Republic of the Philippines on March 7, 1983.
Original Board of Directors (1983)
Standing (L-R): Job de Jesus, Atty. Rafael Ortigas, Atty. Dominador Mercado, Jr., Msgr. Augusto Pedrosa,
Seated (L-R): Josefina E. Pulumbarit, Vera M. Calandra, Msgr. Jesus Sison, DD HP; Ramon E. Rodriguez, Digna C. Rodriguez
Not in picture: Francisco Ortigas, III, Pixie R. Carpo