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Sharing inspiration and a strong faith, Ciarrocchi speaks at Chamber event

04/20/2016 01:34PM ● Published by J. Chambless

Pat Ciarrocchi addressed the audience at Wednesday's breakfast.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Pat Ciarrocchi has always been inspired by her deep roots in southern Chester County, and on April 20, she got a chance to share those inspirations at the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce Inspirational Breakfast.

In front of a large crowd of business leaders, government representatives and civic leaders at the Mendenhall Inn, Ciarrocchi reflected on a few key moments in her 33-year career on the air at CBS-3 as a news anchor and a show host. But she started at the beginning.

“I took my first steps on High Street in Toughkenamon,” she said. Her father ran a successful, family-owned mushroom company.

Leon Spencer sings 'The Star Spangled Banner' behind the Color Guard of the Valley Forge Military Academy to open the Chamber of Commerce breakfast on April 20.

 She recalled her father, who died in 1999, as a man with a strong work ethic who was equally invested in his family, and in service to others. “I remember that dad had sold one of his very first crops to a distributor. But the check was in the mail, as they say. It was Sunday morning, and dad was trying really hard to find something to put in the collection basket at mass at St. Patrick's. That morning, he and my mother put together four quarters. Dad always trusted that if he placed God first, then he and his family would be protected.”

Ciarrocchi recalled getting a letter 16 years ago from former Kennett Police Chief Albert McCarthy, who told her that Mr. Ciarrocchi had once answered a call for help from a man burdened with an ill wife, a broken heater and no money to pay bills. After hearing about the family, Ciarrocchi gave enough money to get the heater repaired and the oil tank filled. “I appreciate what your father did,” McCarthy wrote to the family.

Later, the man who had been helped came to the police station to repay the debt. But Ciarrocchi had made the donation anonymously and expected no repayment. “My father said to take the money to St. Patrick's and help others,” Ciarrocchi said, her voice cracking. “That is a really powerful legacy for me. A powerful moment of inspiration … When my father died, he was blessed with a long list of riches that had nothing to do with money.”

Ciarrocchi said she discovered her love of writing in third grade. “I discovered this was something I could do,” she recalled, smiling. In eighth grade, however, she was not accepted to her choice of high schools, Ursuline in Wilmington. She was devastated, but attended Padua Academy instead.

A large crowd of business and civic leaders attended the breakfast.

 Later, when she went to Rosemont College, her roommate – who had attended Ursuline – said the school had no newspaper, so Ciarrocchi would not have been able to foster her gift for writing if she had been accepted there.

“Was it divine providence?” Ciarrocchi asked. “Yes. It was whispering in my ear, saying, 'Listen to me. Trust. Let go.'

“It is hard to let go when we are gripping the steering wheel of our lives as white-knuckle drivers,” she said. “But divine providence exists.”

She recalled several young people she met during her career at CBS-3, and counted each one as an inspiration in her life.

Quoting Michelangelo, she said, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss, but it is too low, and we reach it. I think he was talking about inspiration when he said that. We don't allow ourselves to be inspired in the richest sense. We settle for much less, and we call it our lives.”

Recalling her experience of seeing Michelangelo's statue of David, as well as the sculptures leading up to it which are only partially carved, Ciarrocchi said the figures are “locked” in the stone. “I ask you, what locks us in?” she said. “Beneath our beating hearts is a beating soul that has to be sharing who we are, especially with those we love. It's through moments of inspiration that we can sculpt a lifetime of happiness and peace. The greatest good is the greatest good, no matter what you hear on any TV station during an election season,” Ciarrocchi added, smiling.

While she has entered a quieter phase of her life after crowning her career with 16 hours of live coverage during the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia last September, she said she's enjoying the new schedule. “I have loved all this,” she said of her career. “But I also love to share these stories with you, to open a door and perhaps let you see things a different way.”

Taking a few questions from the audience at the end of her keynote speech, Ciarrocchi said she is frustrated “by the gridlock that has happened in Washington. For all of the elected officials who are here, I'm sure it frustrates you as well. It irritates me that we have not been able to move forward for the greater good. [Politicians] got hired to work for all of us, not just to work for their point of view.”

She also said that social media cannot replace responsible journalism, and she worries that some people think that what is posted on the internet is always valid. “I still see TV as the primary medium, and social media supporting it,” she said.

Pointing out several people in the audience she knew personally, Ciarrocchi said, “As I walk down the street in Kennett, no matter what's really there, I still see Mr. Virgilio's store on one corner. I see Newberry's in the middle of the block. I see Sheldon's. I see Bove's – and thank goodness Bove's is going to survive. I see Reese's Pharmacy on another corner. So I guess it's really hard to take southern Chester County out of a Southern Chester County girl.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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