Elena Orrico’s efforts helped make St. Rita celebrations possible

  • April 13, 2011
Elena Orrico poses with her statue of St. Rita of Cascia at her home in northwest Toronto. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - In 1986, Elena Orrico was asked to organize and prepare the first feast day celebrations in honour of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, at Marylake Shrine. Twenty-five years later, what she made possible is still going strong.

Devoted to St. Rita of Cascia from a young age, Orrico said she was thrilled when Augustinian Father Cyril Smetana, prior at Marylake Augustinian Monastery in King City, Ont., at the time, asked her to take on this task.

“When I read the letter, I was so happy to hear I could help to keep the St. Rita tradition here in Canada,” Orrico told The Catholic Register. “I worked with all my heart for St. Rita.”

St. Rita’s feast day is celebrated on May 22.

Orrico, 70, came to her devotion when St. Rita helped her with her own problems. She had been having terrible headaches to the point where she couldn’t work.

“Through the intercession of St. Rita, I stopped having headaches,” said Orrico.

Born in southern Italy, Orrico came to Toronto in 1958. An active member at both St. Agnes parish and St. Francis of Assisi parish upon arrival in Canada, she is now a parishioner at St. Wilfrid’s parish.

The roots of the feast at Marylake go back to Orrico’s zeal and help, said Fr. Eugene Tramble, current prior at Marylake.

“She would organize the day of the feast,” said Tramble. “She would come there in advance to prepare everything. She would prepare the statues and order pictures from Rome and the Centre of St. Rita in Cascia. She’d take care of the need for flowers — everything that was needed to make the feast very inspirational.”

The feast includes Mass, statues of St. Rita on display and a procession along with the blessed roses of St. Rita being given out, said Tramble.

“She was very active in getting the things that were needed,” Tramble said.

“She took that on as her responsibility. And she was really generous financially. She’d say, ‘I’ll take care of that, I’ll pay for that.’ ”

And she’d put in extra effort, going afar to get what was needed. With the permission of the Augustinians, Orrico ordered materials from Italy for the feast — prayer books in Italian and holy cards, items that were not available in Canada at the time, she said.

It was Orrico’s idea to create a holy card with a drawing of St. Rita flanked by the Marylake Shrine and the basilica at Cascia. The holy card was inscribed with a prayer to St. Rita and was made in both English and Italian.

Orrico was also responsible for promoting the feast and appeared on both radio and television over the years, including spots on CHIN radio and CityTV.

For her devotion, Orrico was affiliated as an honorary member of the Augustinian Order in 1994.

“St. Rita helped me to continue for so many years,” said Orrico.

Today, she volunteers her time with different parish initiatives, including making blankets, shawls and bedspreads out of wool that she donates to parishes for raffles.

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A Catholic Register Special Section

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