Fr. Vito Marziliano passed away in his parish office Feb. 12. He was 66. Register file photo by Michael Swan

Fr. Vito: big man, bigger smile

By 
  • February 24, 2022

Fr. Vito Marziliano, a big man with a permanent smile who had only friends and no acquaintances, died of a sudden heart attack in his Brampton, Ont., parish office Feb. 12. He was 66 years old.

Having served seven Toronto parishes as one of the city’s best loved pastors, Fr. Marziliano had friends all over. Cardinal Thomas Collins, in Rome for meetings when the St. Patrick’s pastor died, ran into one of Fr. Marziliano’s friends while in the Eternal City.

“When a Roman I met found out that I am from Toronto, he asked if I knew a wonderful priest, Fr. Vito Marziliano,” Collins told The Catholic Register in an email from Rome. “I gave him the sad news of Fr. Vito’s death, and like so many others, he spoke warmly of Father’s kindness. That is what the priesthood is all about.”

Collins admired Fr. Marziliano’s “ability to create connections with others and, through his kind nature, drawing people into a closer relationship with God.”

“Fr. Vito clearly loved God deeply and loved the people he served, and everyone he met,” Collins said.

As a pastor, Fr. Marziliano was always embedded in his community, often serving in parishes with large Italian immigrant populations. But as a Toronto-born Italian-Canadian, Fr. Marziliano always encouraged the transition from a closed, immigrant enclave to an open embrace of Canadian society.

On his death, the staff and students of Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in Brampton tweeted out their sorrow.

“On Friday, Fr. Vito visited us at Ambrozic,” said the school’s Feb. 13 tweet. “We prayed together. In his final hours he was in service to our staff and students.”

That last visit to the school was just a quick drop-in to share an espresso (“Father loved his espresso”) and prepare for a meeting the following Tuesday, said Cardinal Ambrozic principal Michelina Battaglini.

“Father was always one to make sure that the students had what they needed to have in everything, from academics to that spiritual part,” said Battaglini.

At a diverse school with many Hindu and Sikh students, Fr. Marziliano was a chaplain and friend to everybody, said Battaglini.

“Father was very welcoming, so even the interactions he had with them were so beautiful,” she said.

In 39 years of priesthood Fr. Marziliano’s parishes included St. Peter’s in Woodbridge, St. Jude’s in Weston, St. Mary Margaret in Woodbridge, Epiphany of Our Lord in Scarborough, St. Clare’s in Toronto’s west end, All Saints in Etobicoke and finally St. Patrick’s.

Early on, when CityTV was looking for an opening into the Italian community for its Saturday morning ethnic broadcasting, they found a natural-born broadcaster and ambassador in Fr. Marziliano.

For his funeral Mass, celebrated Feb. 19 at St. Clare of Assisi in Woodbridge, Fr. Marziliano’s friends printed up cards quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The same quote appeared on prayer cards for his ordination Oct. 23, 1982. Fr. Marziliano had planned to use it again when celebrating his 40th anniversary of ordination this fall.

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