Fr. Armando Pierini—THE Most Accomplished Scalabrinian

This is the Chapter on Armando Pierini who played crucial roles in the establishment of the the Sacred Heart Seminary, the Villa Scalabrini, and the Fra Noi newspaper. For 60 years he was at the very center of Chicago Italian Catholicsm
Click below to access a scanned version of Candeloro’s edited interview with Pierini
Pierini ChapterB

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Rev. Armando Pierini, 90, Villa Scalabrini Founder

October 15, 1998|By Meg McSherry Breslin, Tribune Staff Writer.

In the 1940s, Italian-Americans weren’t likely to send their elders to nursing homes. In the Italian tradition, families cared for their aging mothers and fathers at home.

But Rev. Armando Pierini saw a growing need for a new form of care for the aging at that time, and he had the gumption and personality to make his vision a reality.

After years of fundraising and planning, Father Pierini opened the Villa Scalabrini nursing home in Northlake, serving primarily Italian-Americans, in 1951. The home focused on the spiritual and physical care of the elderly and became a popular residence.

Father Pierini was director of the Villa for 30 years and remained a resident there until his death Tuesday at age 90 in West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park.

Also the founder of the Fra Noi newspaper and a leader behind the formation of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Father Pierini was a key figure in his community.

“He was one of those rare individuals who had such total selflessness and total devotion to whatever it was he was involved in, and that was mostly the care of these (elderly) people,” said Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

Father Pierini was born in Perugia, Italy, and was ordained into the Missionaries of St. Charles, Scalabrinians, in 1932.

As the director of Villa Scalabrini, Father Pierini took a creative and aggressive approach toward keeping the home alive by soliciting donations from churches and prominent community leaders. He started the Fra Noi newspaper in part to promote the home and had a weekly radio program on which he often discussed the virtues of the home.

In 1972, Father Pierini didn’t hesitate to write a letter with U.S. Rep. Frank Annunzio that they sent directly to Frank Sinatra, asking whether he would perform at a benefit to raise funds for Villa Scalabrini. Sinatra responded almost immediately to Father Pierini’s passionate request. “You print the tickets and I’ll be happy to pay for the rest,” he said.

“Father Pierini was not at all shocked by Sinatra’s presence,” DiFrisco said. “He just believed it was divine intervention which led to Sinatra accepting the offer.”

At the home, Father Pierini was tireless in his efforts to beautify the surroundings and to make people feel comfortable. Residents were invited to plant gardens in a big courtyard in the center of the complex and to decorate their rooms.

Dedicated to his own vow of poverty, Father Pierini slept on the floor or in a recliner in the basement of the home for years because he didn’t want to take away a potential room for a resident.

“Besides being a builder, he was a very spiritual and prayerful man,” said Rev. John Di Vito, chaplain at Villa Scalabrini. “He was known for his prayers and his ascetic life.”

On his 50th anniversary in the priesthood in 1982, the Fra Noi newspaper tried to sum up Father Pierini’s contributions to the community.

“Father Pierini may be reluctant to accept any credit or merit for the work he has done in the name of Christ,” the paper wrote, “but the Italian-American community will always be grateful to him for his leadership, his inspiration and his perseverance in successfully giving the community an institution of which all can be justly proud.”

Father Pierini is survived by a sister, Leopolda Pittola. Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Villa Scalabrini, 480 N. Wolf Rd., Northlake. A funeral service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Villa Scalabrini.