Little Company of Mary Sister Terrance Landini’s journey of faith and patient advocacy
by Tom Hoffarth
Sister Terrence Landini spent five decades ministering to the sick at what is now Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance. She was a supervising nurse, director of human resources, and hospital board member. She also served as Superior of the Little Company of Mary Convent.
Today, at 89, Sister Terrence’s role as caregiver is transitioning to care receiver. But that has not changed how she sees her role as a patient advocate.
“I can’t believe I had the courage to say this, but I found it upsetting how a doctor I was seeing only wanted to do virtual visits,” Sr. Terrence said in a recent interview.
“I told him this isn’t ‘Candid Camera.’ No more videos. It’s been a year since I’ve been in your office. I need to see you, and you need to see me. Otherwise, it’s not good medicine.”
The doctor acquiesced.
“He was running back and forth between patients. But he took the time to talk to me. He patted me on the leg and said, ‘Do the best you can to stay well.’ That connection matters. “Healing comes in small acts, like a doctor taking a pulse,” she explained.
Sr. Terrence, or Sister T, as she is commonly known, arrived at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance from Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park outside of Chicago in 1966.
She retired in 2007, at age 73, but her halo effect on the medical center continues to shine.
On Saturday, November 4 her Platinum Jubilee (70th anniversary) as a nun was celebrated at the Providence Little Company of Mary’s 2023 gala at Terranea Resort. Her presence helped raise more than $1 million for Providence’s San Pedro and Torrance Advanced Care Centers.
“I think because I tell the story of how we came to be, and how we want to continue to be here, serving the community — people identify with that, They know we’re here for them. That all makes a difference,” she said at the celebration.
The future of Providence-Little Company of Mary will depend on those who respect the mission and understand what has been done to this point, she said.
“A system can have too many layers, and get too big, and business minded,” she cautioned. “We have to be sure we never lose our faith-based reasons for being here.”
During an interview following the celebration Sr. Teresa said she was “blessed by the Lord to serve,” though her calling was often tested, most recently during the COVID pandemic.
Hospital protocol prohibited bedside visits with patients, leading her to start an “intense, heavy duty telephone ministry.”
“I missed the bedside visits something terrible,” she said. “When I’m asked to talk to new people on our staff – a new chaplain or a social worker — I share stories about my experiences and I want to hear theirs, too.
“It always comes back to this: Our work is sacred. When you work with the sick and the dying, you’re privileged to hear things you would never otherwise hear.
“You become a better person experiencing all this. I tell my patients I’m just going to the chapel to ask God to bless them. I ask God to help me be a positive influence to whomever He placed on my path that day.”
One recent patient was her secretary for the last 10 years, Marilyn Kammerer. During her final days at the Providence Little Company of Mary Caring House, Sr. Terrence held her hand and told her how much of an inspiration she was to her work.
Sr. Terrence said Kammerer opened her eyes and responded, “I love you so much.” They both cried.
Marilyn died three days later with her husband of 71 years, Bill, at her side.
In recent years, Sr. Terrence has undergone two hip, and two knee replacements, which baffled her because she has always exercised and followed a Mediterranean diet. Doctors told her the joint damage was the result of arthritis.
Four years ago, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. As a result, she scoots around in a walker, wears an inch-and-a-half lift in one shoe, and wears a weighted vest, though “not for long periods.” She is also coping with hearing loss – 75 percent on one side, 45 percent on the other.
She doesn’t complain, but instead expresses gratitude for the fact her mind is still sharp and her heart still strong.
“You just don’t know what’s in store for yourself,” she said. She finds it amusing, she said to overhear people ask, ‘Is Sister Terrence still around?”
Sr. Terrence grew up Jean Landini, in the Chicago area, the oldest of two, to an Italian-Polish family. She joined the Little Company of Mary sisters in 1952, at age 18. The following year she received her blue and white habit and new name.
Little Company of Mary Sisters was founded by Mary Potter in England in 1887 to provide hospice and palliative care before those terms existed.
In 1958, she graduated from the Little Company of Mary School of Nursing in Evergreen Park, near Chicago. She was then assigned to establish the hospital’s surgical and cardiac intensive care unit.
In her early 30s she was awaiting a State grant to teach cardiac nursing when her provincial told her she was being transferred. The Little Company of Sister’s new hospital in Torrance California needed a cardiac nurse. St. Terrence’s request to have the transfer delayed until she received her grant was denied. She said she cried for days, but trusted in God that the transfer was his will.
“All I knew about Torrance was that it was between San Francisco and San Diego,” she said. “Maybe if they said Marineland was there off the nearby peninsula, I could have figured it out.”
“The move hit me like a bolt, but it only took about a year before I fell in love with the place,” she said.
Following her retirement in 2007, her portrait, by the Estonia portrait artist Aapo Pukk, was hung in the hall leading to the Centofante Family Chapel, where her platinum jubilee Mass was recently held. In 2014, a water fountain at the main entrance was named in her honor. Its glass plaque reads, “Beloved sister, trustee, director, spiritual advisor and friend to all.”
The platinum jubilee Mass was officiated by Monsignor Paul Dotson of St. Lawrence Martyrs in Redondo Beach, Sr. Terrance’s home parish. Her regional superior, Sr. Carol Pacini, attended as did Sr. Renee Cunningham, a Torrance native who was a Candy Striper at Little Company of Mary before entering the convent.
This past March, the Sister Terrence Landini Therapeutic Pool was blessed at the Providence Advanced Care Center. It was made possible by a gift from Bee-De and Dr. Samuel Lim.
The five-foot Sr. Terrance exercises in the facility’s six foot pool twice a week.
“I need a snorkel to use the underwater treadmill because I’m so short now,” she said. Pen