In memoriam: Rev. Thomas Tallarida, C.S.C.

by Michael O. Garvey

Rev. Thomas Cajetan Tallarida, C.S.C. Rev. Thomas Cajetan Tallarida, C.S.C.

Rev. Thomas Cajetan Tallarida, C.S.C., died Saturday (Jan. 5) at Holy Cross House at Notre Dame.

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Father Tallarida was born on Sept. 17, 1923, to Giovanni and Tomasina Tallarida, recent immigrants from Calabria, Italy. Because Italian was the exclusive language of his family’s household, Father Tallarida grew up with little English and struggled in his early years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Rochester, but then flourished under the guidance of an Italian-speaking nun.

Father Tallarida’s baptismal name was “Gaetano,” and he liked to tell the story of how it was misplaced. “My mother took me to the grammar school for registration,” he said, “and as she handed Sister Catherine Joseph my baptismal certificate, the nun asked my mother what ‘Gaetano’ meant. Having no English, my mother was unable to respond. So Sister Catherine recited the Litany of the Saints, and when my mother heard, ‘Saint Thomas,’ she nodded her head. So I ended up with the name of Thomas, even though the actual translation for ‘Gaetano’ is ‘Cajetan.’"

Father Tallarida graduated from Aquinas Institute in Rochester in 1942 and was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross the following year. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and made his final profession of vows to the Congregation in 1947. He studied theology at Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C., before being ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1951. He taught at Columbia Preparatory School in Portland, Ore., served in Holy Cross Parish in South Bend until 1955 and earned a master’s degree in history from Notre Dame in 1956.

When the Congregation of Holy Cross founded the Notre Dame High School for Boys in Niles, Ill., in 1955, Father Tallarida was among its first faculty members. He taught there until 1968, when he began studies at the University of Ottawa, from which he earned a master’s degree in religious studies.

Returning to Notre Dame in 1970, Father Tallarida served as rector of Zahm Hall, director of off-campus housing and director of the foreign students program. In 1980, he was appointed assistant superior at Moreau Seminary, and from 1987 to 1988 he directed the Old College undergraduate seminary program at Notre Dame.

A congenially affectionate man, Father Tallarida exercised his pastoral, academic and administrative responsibilities with an effortless good cheer that was sometimes mistaken for nonchalance. He once said that he considered priestly celibacy not so much as a sacrifice as a gift that enabled him to be a member of any family, and the students, colleagues and parishioners he served unfailingly found in him not only a friend, but also another father or brother. At a celebration of the 60th anniversary of his ordination in 2011, he said simply, “I am grateful for all the persons who made this adventure possible, especially Jesus, who chose this unworthy servant.”

After his retirement from his positions at Notre Dame, Father Tallarida served at St. Raphael Parish in San Rafael, Calif., from 1988 to 1993, when he returned to live at Corby Hall. During the summers of his residence at Corby, he served at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Novato, Calif. He moved to Holy Cross House in 2011.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 10) at Moreau Seminary with a wake service at 7:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 3:30 p.m. Friday (Jan. 11) in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at