1917 – 1989 (March 5)
Erbio Jose Caraballo was born in Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba, on November 30, 1917, to Ramiro Caraballo and Maria Trinidad Escobeda. He had one sister and three brothers, one of whom became a diocesan priest. Baptized in the church of Santiago Apostol in Santiago de las Vegas, his early education was in the local Cuban schools. Upon graduation from the Academia Valmana in 1938, he moved to Havana and came in contact with Father John McKniff, O.S.A., at the church of El Cristo. In 1943 Erbio Caraballo was accepted as a postulant at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. He made his novitiate in New Hamburg, N.Y., where he professed simple vows on September 10, 1947. Three years later, on September 10, 1950, he made solemn profession at Saint Mary's Hall, Villanova, Pennsylvania He received his B.A. degree in Philosophy from the college in June that same year, and pursued theological studies at Augustinian College in Washington D.C. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John McNamara on June 6, 1953, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University. While studying theology, he pursued graduate studies in sociology at Villanova and Catholic University.
Father Caraballo returned to Cuba in 1954 for his first assignment as a teacher of morality and sociology at the University of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, in Havana. He was also assistant chaplain and continued his degree work in sociology. By 1959 the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro was becoming more hostile to the Church in general and Catholic education in particular, so Father Caraballo left Cuba and was assigned to Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Jamaica, N.Y. In 1961, he was transferred to Saint Nicholas of Tolentine in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In both of these parishes he was an assistant pastor and cared for the growing Hispanic population. In 1971 he was assigned to Holy Rosary Church in Lawrence, Massachusetts. With great energy he began to organize the various Hispanic elements, founding a Spanish-speaking chapter of the Knights of Columbus, as well as various organizations for women and youth. A great believer in the necessity of learning English, he worked for various bilingual programs sponsored by the Magnus Foundation. In 1979, due to a heart condition, he was forced to limit his activities, but continued to minister to many through his work at Lawrence General Hospital and through counseling in the parish. Failing health compelled him to enter the Leahy Clinic in Burlington, Mass., where he died on March 5, 1989.
Father Caraballo had a great devotion to the Mother of God, and many fondly remember his leading the procession in her honor, especially on the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 9, 1989, at Holy Rosary Church by the Prior Provincial, Joseph A. Duffey, O.S.A.. The homily for the Mass was delivered by a fellow Cuban Augustinian, Maximo Ortiz, O.S.A. Father Caraballo is buried in the Augustinian plot at Saint Mary Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Lawrence, Mass.