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This Week’s LION: Memories of Father Manno

If ever there was a Leader in Our Neighborhood (LION) it was Father John Manno, who passed away on May 30th at the age of 78. Tributes to the man poured in throughout the region because he touched many lives far beyond his own parish. Much has been written about this extraordinary individual, but I

If ever there was a Leader in Our Neighborhood (LION) it was Father John Manno, who passed away on May 30th at the age of 78. Tributes to the man poured in throughout the region because he touched many lives far beyond his own parish. Much has been written about this extraordinary individual, but I would like to share my own personal interactions with Father Manno.

I first met him when we both got involved in the Heroin Task Force when it was first organized back in 2012. We were members of the Faith-Based Sub-Committee, and Father Manno was one of the most faithful members of that group. He brought a particular passion to our monthly meetings, and though he supported all the various endeavors, which were primarily focused on awareness, his button was stuck on learning. Though it took years of development, through his imagination and tenacity, he eventually created a Sunday School Educational Curriculum for individuals struggling with heroin addiction. It was probably the most substantial product of our sub-committee.

As I got to know Father Manno, I found that these qualities had been years in the making. As a young priest, he had taught students, working with the seaman on the docks in New York City, and also employed by the YMCA of New York City. So it was, many years later, when the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, Father Manno wasted no time in going to New York to volunteer as a grief counselor for the first responders who were pulling dead bodies out of the rubble. His Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Marywood College was never more useful, and he ended up spending over a month working almost non-stop helping those who were struggling with the aftermath of the crisis.

When Father Manno heard that motorcycle riders in Lycoming County were going to hold a 9/11 Memorial Ride in 2002, he hopped on his Harley-Davidson he named “Fred” and rode along. He became chaplain of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition Ride, and his presence at that event through the years was memorable in itself. In fact, his portrait is on the mural of Williamsport dignitaries on Fourth Street in Williamsport across from the Community Arts Center. Fittingly, he is portrayed sitting on “Fred the Harley.”

It was at the 9/11 Ride on September 11th, 2018 at the Clinton Township Fire Company that I last saw Father Manno. We talked briefly, and he was pleased that I was a member of the local fire company. I told him he was an inspiration to me, as I knew he took great pride in his chaplaincy with the Williamsport Fire Department. In the tribute paid to Father Manno on ABC Channel 16, WNEP, a good portion of the feature focused on his work with the WFD and showed him smiling with pride with a special firemen’s helmet they awarded him signifying him as chaplain.

I am not Roman Catholic, and never saw Father Manno conduct a mass or had him hear my confession — but he was truly for me a man of God who I respected because I saw his faith exhibited in the real world. Though we will dearly miss him, all those who knew him are richer for it.

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