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MADRID, Spain (ChurchMilitant.com) - Having suffered terrible pain, but buoyed by surplus faith, Teresita Castillo de Diego, age 10, passed away March 7 in the "odor of sanctity." Prior to her death, she was designated a missionary by the archdiocese of Madrid.
The Spanish nation has been moved with wonder following the March 8 publication of a letter on Twitter by Fr. Ángel Camino (an archdiocese of Madrid episcopal vicar for La Paz Hospital), who recounted how Teresita yearned to share her Faith with others so that they "can go to Heaven."
On Feb. 11, Fr. Camino was summoned to visit Teresita, who was scheduled for an operation to remove the tumor that had tormented her for weeks. The priest found Teresita in her hospital bed, while her mother, Teresa, attended her. He recalled that, despite having a bandage around her head, Teresita's face was "truly shining and exceptional." Teresita told him that she not only loved Jesus very much but wanted to become a missionary. The priest responded by immediately making her a missionary and, later, bringing her a certificate and a missioner's cross.
"Teresita was transparent to God," said Fr. Camino, adding, "That child transmitted the presence of Jesus with her eyes and face." Repeating a common Spanish refrain, he said, "Tell me who your friends are, and I will say who you are." He added, "I give the credit to her heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit ... who prompted her to say, 'I want to be a missionary,' which is to say, 'I want to live for Jesus.'"
When Fr. Camino gave Teresita the Eucharist and anointed her, he said that they both experienced a "moment of prayer, extremely simple, but deeply supernatural." Teresita said that "tomorrow I'll take [the Cross] to the operating room. I'm a missionary now."
Born in Russia and adopted by Spanish parents — Eduardo and Teresa — when she was 3 years old, Teresita was an only child. At her school in Madrid, which was operated by the Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus, she attended daily Mass. In 2015, after a tumor was discovered in Teresita's brain, her condition appeared to improve following surgery. However, in 2018, the tumor was growing again, and Teresita was taken to Switzerland where she had an operation and received treatment.
According to her mother, Teresita was well known for her kindness and cheerful demeanor:
Her personality was extraordinary; she had a lot of empathy with people. She was very witty, very affectionate. She greeted everyone, even strangers. Many people were moved by the way she greeted them. She was very special because no one was a stranger to her: She gave her love to everyone.
When she was hospitalized again in January, Teresita's surgery was canceled because of fluid that had built up in her brain. She was then put in isolation after she and her mother, Teresa, were diagnosed with COVID-19.
In an interview with InfoCatolica, Teresa recalled her daughter's spiritual life, physical suffering and spirit of martyrdom. "The girl suffered pain with great fortitude; she looked like someone crucified," said Teresa. "I saw a martyrdom in my daughter's illness, and every time she entered the ICU room, it was like going to Calvary," she continued, emphasizing how the girl offered her suffering to God. "Teresita was very much in love with Jesus. She told her grandmother that as much as she loved her, she loved Jesus even more. Amid the greatest pain, with her voice nearly gone, she said, 'Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.'"
Teresa said that her daughter expressed a wish to become a missionary after watching a movie about Mother Teresa. Teresita wanted to build a children's hospital and evangelize so that "everyone could go to Heaven," according to her mother. When Teresita asked why she suffered so much, Teresa told her it was "because she was a close friend of Jesus and [He] wanted her to join Him on the Cross; this she understood perfectly." She once told her father, "Papa, I'm going to Heaven."
Her mother relayed that Teresita had several dreams about Heaven and that she had seen her deceased grandfather. The saintly girl said she had asked God if she could see [Blessed] Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenaged boy, who died of leukemia in 2006 after offering up his final suffering for the conversion of souls. She was also devoted to St. Perpetua, a second-century martyr. It was on March 7, the feast day of the saint, that little Teresita passed away. She was buried on the following day.
When asked whether Teresita is a saint, Teresa said she was assured by Fr. Santiago Cantera, OSB that Teresita is a saint because "she offered her suffering with joy." In a YouTube video, Fr. Cantera said that Teresita exemplified the "embracing of the Cross" and died in "the odor of sanctity." Teresita taught a lesson, he said, "that cannot be learned in classrooms and universities and books," but comes from an "interior life and an abundance of the outpouring of grace. She is now the channel for many graces from Heaven." He said that Teresita is "certainly with God in Heaven" because she joyfully embraced her suffering.