Sr. Carmelina Tarantino at a Eucharistic Celebration of Renewal of Vows with Fr. Claudio Piccinini, her only spiritual confessor and spiritual director. On March 21, a Mass was celebrated at St. Pascal Baylon parish in Thornhill to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. Photo courtesy of Teopoli Catholic Spiritual Centre

A ‘Victim Soul,’ Sr. Carmelina suffered for others

By  Andreina Brann, Catholic Register Special
  • March 24, 2012

Over the past two decades thousands of people have attended Eucharistic celebrations to pray to Sr. Carmelina Tarantino. Many of those devotees attended a Mass on Mar. 21 at St. Pascal Baylon parish in Thornhill, Ont. to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of the remarkable Toronto religious sister.

March 21 was also the third anniversary of the date Cardinal Thomas Collins officially launched Sr. Carmelina’s cause for sainthood by opening the Archdiocesan Tribunal for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

To date, more than 50 people have been identified to testify in front of the tribunal to bear witness to Sr. Carmelina’s heroic virtues and spiritual interventions in their lives. About 25 of them have already done so under oath. The tribunal, which examines everything possible about the life of Sr. Carmelina, has the sole authoritative responsibility from the Church for this task, even asking those who disagree to come forward.

At Riverdale Hospital (now Bridgepoint Health) in Room 306 West, Sr. Carmelina spent 23 years on her back, immobilized, fixed to her hospital bed due to cancer.  She underwent at least 23 major surgical procedures and is considered what spiritual theology calls a “Victim Soul” — one whom the Lord Himself asks to accept suffering for the good of others and offer reparation for sin.

People who knew Sr. Carmelina consider her “uniquely unparalleled” in the Church because of the manner of her acceptance of daily suffering as a “gift from God” and for the intimately genuine love she displayed for all people. She was so active that one might have had to wait nine months to visit her.

“I never spared myself, even though some times I have not responded immediately, but with time I did, never forgetting anyone,” she said in her last testament.

Gathered around her deathbed, her visitors heard her last words: “I have always wanted your good and I take all of you with me. I will help you from heaven. I will pray for you and I will continue to work with you. I want good for all of you. For me, all of you are my family and you are all equal.” 

More than 30,000 people paid their respects to her remains before she was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill. Even now, more continue to visit the cemetery and the memorial at the Teopoli Catholic Spiritual Center in Gravenhurst, Ont. to pay tribute to the Servant of God Sr. Carmelina of the Cross, Passionist.

To the thousands upon thousands of people who met and knew her, she was known simply as the Good Sr. Carmelina, the one living at the hospital since 1969 with her left leg amputated together with her entire hip, her right breast removed, and a decaying and immobile right leg. The surgical incisions never healed, and she bled continually. Physicians estimated that she had a month and/or a month and a half to live in 1969, only able to move her head sideways and partially raise both her arms. A canopy of white cloth was draped as a tent from her chest to the bottom of the bed. All the organs of her body had been adversely affected and she lived with constant fevers, headaches and other body pain.

But in her presence, she was seemingly unhampered in finding ways to assist those who had gone to her for help. Lovingly she would offer one a bottle of water, some fruit and cookies. After the visit, she would hand one a gift of a religious statue, or a rosary or a prayer card.

She was born on Feb. 7, 1937 near the town of Liveri, Province of Naples, Italy, of Nunziata Fiore and Saverio Tarantino, the eighth of 11 children. A beautiful girl with gently sculptured features and a lovely and lively personality, she was nurtured in faith by her family.

At the age of 25, she experienced her first symptoms of illness, but no definite diagnosis could be given. Then her disease seemingly disappeared and she was capable of visiting and remaining with her family in Toronto, beginning in July 1964. She eventually became a Canadian citizen, an event she cherished.

In 1973, Sr. Carmelina met Fr. Claudio Piccinini, a Passionist Missionary, by telephone. Recognizing value in the Mission he founded in Toronto in 1971. She joined The United Society and its Teopoli Catholic Spiritual Center in Gravenhurst, Ont. The Mission was her lifelong apostolate; she was the devoted Apostle of the Mission.

She chose Piccinini as her only official confessor and spiritual director from 1976 to her death. Upon his urging, she wrote an extensive diary solely for his discerning the validity of her life of mystical experiences. The tribunal is using all his extensive material confidentially.

In 1977, Carmelina revealed to Piccinini the desire of her youth to become a religious sister, but the vocation had not been realized. After a request by Piccinini to the Passionist Sisters in Rome on Carmelina’s behalf, the Holy See was contacted and it dispensed all normal preliminary requirements for admission into the Passionists. Mother Edoarda Achille, the Superior General of the Passionist Sisters of St. Paul of the Cross, received Carmelina into the community on November 26, 1977, at the hospital. Carmelina professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the fourth vow that is particular to the Passionists — promoting remembrance of the passion and death of Jesus in the minds and hearts of the faithful. A community of Passionist Sisters was later founded in Toronto in 1981 because of this marvellous event.

For now, Torontonians are told that the best thing they can do is to imitate the judicious reserve of the Church in its examination of Sr. Carmelina’s life. At the end of that long process, it will be decided whether Sr. Carmelina is to be called Venerable. If that happens, verification is required of a miracle taking place as a result of Sr. Carmelina’s intercession for her to be made Blessed. Then authenticity of a second miracle must occur for the Church to call her Saint.

The tribunal is accepting testimonials concerning Sr. Carmelina. They can be addressed to the Archdiocesan Tribunal/Sr. Carmelina, in care of the Congregation of Passionist Sisters of St. Paul of the Cross, 1431 Clarence Street, Woodbridge, Ont., L4H 3C4.)

(Andreina Brann is retired from The New York Times and is presently a lay Passionist Missionary.)

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Interestingly Andreina Bologna Brann never did get along with Sr. Carmelina and felt in competition for Fr. Claudio's attention. She has been divorced for over 20 years and still refers to herself as MRS. As an employee of the NY Times she was...

Interestingly Andreina Bologna Brann never did get along with Sr. Carmelina and felt in competition for Fr. Claudio's attention. She has been divorced for over 20 years and still refers to herself as MRS. As an employee of the NY Times she was never a journalist, Check for her by-lines

Read More
Fr. Joe Fahy
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Interestingly Andreina Bologna Brann never did get along with Sr. Carmelita and felt in competition for Fr. Claudio's attention. She has been divorced for over 20 years and still refers to herself as MRS. As an employee of the NY Times she was...

Interestingly Andreina Bologna Brann never did get along with Sr. Carmelita and felt in competition for Fr. Claudio's attention. She has been divorced for over 20 years and still refers to herself as MRS. As an employee of the NY Times she was never a journalist, Check for her by-lines

Read More
Fr. Joe Fahy
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