Sainthood cause started for Canadian nun

  • July 19, 2007
TORONTO - 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 Toronto’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 Sr. 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. Sr. Carmelina died on March 21, 1992.

Now her community is urging the Vatican to declare her a saint.

{sidebar id=2}On July 11, with the approval of Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, the process for the beatification and eventual canonization of Sr. Carmelina was officially underway.

The process actually began a year earlier. Fr. Gabriele Cinglolani, who wrote about Sr. 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 Fr. John (Gianni) Carparelli in an article he penned after reading Cingolani’s book.

Although Carparelli never met Sr. Carmelina, he knew of her through a mutual friend, and she knew of him. Sr. Carmelina counselled several of her visitors to contact 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 Sr 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 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 Sr. Carmelina when his wife went to visit her in 1977. Eventually, visitors were asked to make appointments for the sake of observing hospital regulations.

DiGrado vividly remembers that despite the number of visitors to Sr. 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, Sr. Carmelina “would not refuse anybody anything at any time.” said DiGrado. “If you were in need, she was there.”

The Passionist community is seeking testimonial statements from all who knew Sr. Carmelina. Please contact Sr. Valiriana at (416) 242-4207 or Deacon Joseph DiGrado at (905) 876-9486. E-mails should be sent to

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.