TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – In July 1964, young Carmelina Tarantino arrived in Toronto from Liveri, Italy, seeking medical treatment for an aggressive form of cancer. When she was permanently admitted to Scarborough’s Riverdale Hospital in 1969, her prognosis was grim: she was expected to live six months. Eight years later, Carmelina made her profession of faith and became Sister Carmelina of the Passionist Sisters of the Cross.
She outlived her prognosis by 23 years, during which time she welcomed hundreds of visitors and phone calls to her hospital room, offering advice, prayers, consolation and guidance to all who sought her. Sister Carmelina died on March 21, 1992.
Now her community is urging the Vatican to declare her a saint.
On July 11, with the approval of Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, the process for the beatification and eventual canonization of Sister Carmelina was officially underway.
The process actually began a year earlier. Father Gabriele Cinglolani, who wrote about Sister Carmelina in the book On the Cross With a Smile, has suggested making her the patron of the telephone. “The phone next to her bed was like a non-sacramental confessional where she gathered the distresses and joys of the people.” wrote Father John (Gianni) Carparelli in an article he penned after reading Father Cingolani’s book.
Although Father Carparelli never met Sister Carmelina, he knew of her through a mutual friend, and she knew of him. Sister Carmelina counseled several of her visitors to contact Father Carparelli regarding their children, and those families became a bridge between the priest and the ailing sister.
Testimonials that have already been submitted for the beatification of Sister Carmelina suggest that she was instrumental in restoring people’s faith. “The true miracle is that a simple person, immobilized in bed, incapable of going to visit those who are suffering, becomes bread of the spirit for many who are hungry of God and do not know where to meet him. They met him at the mystery of the cross that smile(d) at them from a hospital bed.” wrote Father Carparelli.
Hospital staff at Riverdale joked that a revolving door should have been installed at the entrance to her room, said Deacon Joseph Digrado, who met Sister Carmelina when his wife went to visit her in 1977. Eventually, visitors were asked to make appointments for the sake of observing hospital regulations.
Deacon DiGrado vividly remembers that despite the number of visitors to Sister Carmelina’s bedside, “the atmosphere of room 306 had a serene peace about it. Her room (was) a sanctuary for people with difficulties in their lives, either in their marriages, with their children, with their health, and even with substance abuse problems. Widows, addicts, abusers, you name it, she was there for them.” he said.
In spite of her own suffering, the severity of her illness and the discomfort caused by the surgeries she had undergone, Sister Carmelina “would not refuse anybody anything at any time.” said Deacon DiGrado. “If you were in need, she was there.”
Born: Febraury 7, 1937-Livery Naples Italy
Baptized: February 19, 1937 Church of St. George Martyr
Emigrated: July 4, 1964 arrives at Toronto with Dr. Nicola Sbarra from Liveri
Deceased: March 21, 1992
Burial: Holy Cross Cemetary, Thornhill, Ontario
“My Dear and good Jesus, suffering has been my joy, the gift that has allowed me to meet you, the greatest love of my life. I am ready to accept for love of you all the suffering that you, Jesus, ask of me.”
Part of Sister Carmelina’s Testament
“…I have always loved you and I will take all of you with me. I will help you from heaven, I will pray for you and I will continue working with you. I love all of you; for me you are all my family and you are all equal. Even though I was not always able to respond immediately, with time I did. I have never spared myself, never neglecting anyone…”
IN HONOR OF
SR. CARMELINA TARANTINO OF THE CROSS, C.P.
On October 13, 1995, Fr. Claudio Piccinini, C.P. announced his intention to erect, at Teopoli, a monument to Sr. Carmelina Tarantino and new Stations of the Cross dedicated to her memory.
There is no doubt Sr. Carmelina deserves this recognition and all those who have come to know and love her want this opportunity to thank her.
Sr. Carmelina helped thousands of people by making herself available to listen to them and pray for them, even though she was hospitalized and afflicted with illness for most of her life. She dedicated the best of her energies and prayers for the realization of the mission of Societa' Unita and especially, Teopoli.
The time has now come to express, with Fr. Claudio, our gratitude for all that Sr. Carmelina did and taught us through her example, sacrifices and words of encouragement.
Meanwhile, let's strive to recall and imitate her great virtues, may they be an influence in our lives, our children and our children's children life.