PINA SURIANO (1915-1950)
Giuseppina Suriano was born on 18 February 1915 in Partinico, an agricultural centre in the Province of Palermo, Sicily, to Giuseppe and Graziella Costantino. She was always known as "Pina" and received the sacrament of Baptism on 6 March 1915.
Pina was particularly sensitive to the religious, loving atmosphere that permeated her home, and was most docile and obedient to her parents. Her calm spirit drew her to the simple things in life, and she perceived God's presence in everything around her.
Pina received her initial religious education from her parents and grandparents, and when she was four she began attending the nursery school directed by the Collegiate Sisters of St Anthony.
In 1921 she went to public school in Partinico and was admired by her teacher for the virtues she demonstrated at such a young age. In 1922 Pina received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation, and the same year she entered the Catholic Action group.
When she was 12, Pina began to take an active part in parish and diocesan life and in Catholic Action. The parish became the "centre" of all of Pina's activities and she cooperated fully with the directives of her parish priest, Fr Antonio Cataldo. He was also her spiritual director and confessor.
From 1939 to 1948 Pina was secretary of Catholic Action, and from 1945 to 1948 she also served as president of Youth Catholic Action. In 1948 she began the Association of the "Daughters of Mary", of which she was president until her death.
Pina's involvement in Catholic Action served as her "spiritual foundation" and was vital to her apostolate. She always drew strength and inspiration from daily prayer and meditation, the sacraments, the Word of God and the teaching of the Church.
Outwardly peaceful and joyful, always ready to be at the service of her family, the parish and Catholic Action, Pina secretly suffered an unceasing interior martyrdom. She felt called to give herself entirely to God in the Religious life, but her desire was never to be fulfilled. Circumstances did not allow it: her mother was opposed to all of Pina's "religious activity", completely ostracizing the girl because she wanted her daughter to marry and settle down.
Pina once confessed: "The main reason why I give in to despair and cannot pull myself out of it is because of my vocation". Pina's vocation was not simply the fruit of her will and desire; she truly felt called to the Religious life and received spiritual direction which led her to understand that this was truly God's will.
Time and time again, Pina sought to embrace this life and understood that Jesus wanted her "all to himself" as "his bride". Her family, however, wanting her to marry, repeated that it was "better to have a dead daughter than one who was a nun".
Pina heroically accepted her failure to reconcile such contradiction, the inability to reach the goal to which she felt so called. She wanted to please God alone and resigned herself to live and accept this "dilemma" for love of her divine Spouse.
Throughout her life, Pina kept a diary that revealed the "night of the soul" in which she was immersed up to her death. She once wrote: "Who can know of this drawn out and painful martyrdom I live and the tears I shed in silence? My soul cries out and is in danger of falling into a bottomless pit... it is a constant martyrdom of the heart". Pina also expressed the solitude that she experienced: "I feel alone and without help, human or divine, abandoned even by the One who is my entire life... I live in silence and do not answer back; I offer all this up to him".
It was clear, however, that Pina understood she was called to love: "Love for the Eucharist, love for the Cross, love for souls must be our ideal".
On 29 April 1932, with the permission of her spiritual director, Pina made a vow of chastity that she renewed every month. She tactfully declined the proposals of marriage that she received from those young men who were so impressed by her interior radiance and exterior beauty.
Finally, in February 1940, a ray of hope entered her soul when she received her parents' permission to enter Religious life. Saying goodbye to her family and companions of Catholic Action, she entered the Institute of the Daughters of St Anne in Palermo. But after only eight days she was forced to leave following a medical examination that revealed a heart problem. Pina continued to be a leader and reference point for Youth Catholic Action and the "Daughters of Mary", making it her aim to accept and transform all into love.
On Easter Tuesday, 30 March 1948, together with three other women, Pina offered herself as a victim for the sanctification of priests. She made this decisive sacrifice of her life in the hands of her parish priest, Fr Andrea Soresi. In early March of that year, the first signs of a violent form of rheumatic arthritis surfaced. Then on 19 May 1950, she suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack as she was preparing to go to Mass.
Giuseppina Suriano died at the age of 35.