Ceferino Namuncurá : biography
Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá (August 26, 1886 - May 11, 1905) was a saintly religious student and the object of a Roman Catholic cultus of veneration in northern Patagonia and throughout Argentina. (Spanish)
Legacy of Ceferino
Ceferino Namuncurá's first legacy is to his own nation and people: Argentina and the Mapuche people. Thanks to the influence of the Salesians of Don Bosco in education and publishing, there are many books and videos on the life of the young holy man, most of them in Spanish. The meaning of Ceferino is also important to the Mapuche and all South American ancestral peoples.
Manuel Gálvez, the prominent Argentine novelist and biographer, wrote a biography of Ceferino Namuncurá in 1947: El Santito de la Tolderia. La vida perfecta de Ceferino Namuncurá.
Back to Argentina
In 1924 his remains were returned to Argentina and placed at Fortín Mercedes, in the southern part of Buenos Aires Province.
At his birthplace of Chimpay a small chapel was erected, where believers from Río Negro Province and beyond began to pray for his intercession. In 1945, a request for his beatification was elevated to the Holy See. Between May 13 and July 10, 1947, the Catholic Church officially started the process for Canonization of Ceferino Namuncurá, with 21 then-living witnesses deposing evidence in favour of his saintly virtues.
On June 22, 1972, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Decree of Heroism of His Virtues and Ceferino was thus proclaimed venerable, becoming the first Catholic Argentine to receive that title and the first South American aborigine.
The devotion to Ceferino Namuncurá, the saintly young Mapuche, known popularly as The Lily of Patagonia ("El lirio de la Patagonia") became very extensive in Buenos Aires and throughout Argentina. In particular the humbler classes of Argentina recognise him, because of his indigenous features, as one of their own. The affection of the people of Argentina for this selfless young man is quite touchingly sincere and images and representations of his face are myriad. Because of his belonging to the Salesians of Don Bosco, who always faithfully promoted his remembrance, his figure started to become familiar worldwide, anywhere where the Salesian work, introducing Ceferino as a model of younthful holiness and selflessness.
In 1991 his relics were translated from the small sanctuary chapel to the roomier Sanctuary of Mary, Help of Christians, at the same town of Fortín Mercedes.
With the Salesians
On September 20, 1897, Ceferino went to study with the Salesians at the Colegio Pío IX, a technical academy in Almagro, Buenos Aires, where he was given a Catholic education.
There he showed himself to be an excellent student and choral musician. From April 2, 1901, Carlos Gardel, afterwards a legendary tango singer and film actor, became a student at the academy and sang along with Ceferino in the chorus.
When he finished his studies, Manuel his father wanted him back home, to serve as interpreter and secretary, but Ceferino was already enthusiastic about becoming a Salesian priest.
He was born at Chimpay, a small town in Valle Medio, Río Negro Province, Argentina, the sixth child of Rosario Burgos and a Mapuche cacique, Manuel Namuncurá. He was baptized by a Salesian missionary priest, Domingo Milanesio, at the age of eight.
Namuncurá's early years were spent by the Río Negro river, and it was here that he, according to legend, miraculously survived a fall into the river.
His father Manuel, Chief of the Mapuches, promoted to honorary colonel in the Argentine army, decided that his son study in Buenos Aires, in order to prepare himself "to be useful to his people." Thanks to the friendship of Manuel with General Luís María Campos, Minister of War and the Navy of Argentina, the boy came to study in the National Workshops of the Navy as a carpenter's apprentice. There he would remain for three months. Ceferino wrote to his father that he was not happy in that place and Manuel then asked former Argentine president Luis Sáenz Peña's advice. He recommended to Colonel Manuel Namuncurá that he send the boy to the Salesians of Don Bosco.
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