By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
CHESTNUT HILL – Outdoor Stations of the Cross on Good Friday are a beloved tradition for Chestnut Hill’s Our Mother of Consolation Parish, and for the past 30 years Judge Armand Della Porta has been the organizer.
Next year he will be ceding this leadership to others, but at 87, he’s entitled.
“We start 11:30 a.m. and we do the Stations around Chestnut Hill,” he said.
“The first station is at Chestnut Hill Hospital, where we pray for the patients. The next stop is at the Presbyterian Church, then to a school on Credfeld Street and so on.”
Some people do the whole 14 stations. Others just join the procession for a little while. The whole idea is “to put spiritual meaning into it,” he said.
Although an active parishioner at Our Mother of Consolation for many years, Della Porta was baptized in South Philadelphia’s St. Paul Parish, but in his early childhood his family returned to Italy. Luckily for Philadelphia, they didn’t stay.
“I didn’t know how to speak Italian when I got there and had to learn English again when I got back,” he remembers.
After graduation from Central High he went on to Temple for college. World War II intervened when he was right out of college, and he served four years in the South Pacific with the Army Field Artillery.
Returning from the war he entered Temple Law School where he distinguished himself and served as editor of the Temple Law Review.
As a young lawyer, he was hired as an assistant district attorney by District Attorney Richardson Dilworth, who chose bright young lawyers fresh out of law school rather than political appointees.
Della Porta was appointed to the bench as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1971. Two years later he was confirmed in the judgeship by the voters and was re-elected in successive terms until his mandatory retirement at age 70 in 1991. He then sat as a senior judge in Commonwealth Court for a few years and still accepts a few arbitration cases.
In his personal life, in 1954, he married Marie Cascarino and they raised their four children, Armand Jr., Peter and twins Adrian and Adriana, in Chestnut Hill.
Within his parish he has been a lector for many years and was a founding member of the parish pastoral council, the finance committee and the home and school association.
Della Porta was at the forefront of the archdiocesan efforts to gain aid for Catholic schools and initiated diocesan-wide walk-athons to raise awareness of the schools and funds for them, for which he received several awards.
He is a long-time board member of the Catholic lawyers group, the St. Thomas More Society and a former board member of the Free Library of Philadelphia. He is also a member of San Salvador Council, Knights of Columbus, and in 1998 he received another knighthood – the papal honor of the Knights of St. Gregory.
The rosary is a daily habit for Della Porta, and right up there with his family, including his wife children and six grandchildren, there is his faith.
“The Church is my larger family,” he said. “I do what I can for my parish, but it isn’t about what I do for the Church. It’s what God does for me.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.