SALESIAN SAINTS OF AUGUST: Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá

23 Aug 2019



Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá, youth

August 26, optional memorial

by Fr. Pasquale Liberatore, SDB


Ceferino Namuncurá was born on August 26, 1886, at Chimpay on the banks of the Rio Negro in Argentina’s untamed Patagonia region. His father Manuel was the last chieftain of the Araucanian tribe, having submitted three years earlier to the troops of the Argentine government.

His father wished him to become the defender of his tribe. So after the lad had freely roamed his native country for 11 years, he was brought to Buenos Aires. But on enrolling in the Salesian school, Ceferino envisioned a broader scope for his life: it would be better to become the first Araucanian priest and to evangelize his people.

He took Dominic Savio as his model, and for five years, through extraordinary efforts to adapt to a totally new culture, he became himself another Savio. His example in piety, charity, daily duties, and ascetical practices was notable. This boy who at first had found it hard just to line up or to obey the school bell gradually became a true model. It was testified of him that he was “a model of balance; he was the arbiter at recreation—his companions listened to his word during their games.” One said, “I was impressed by the care with which he made the sign of the cross, as though reflecting on each word; he even corrected his companions by signaling to them to make it slowly and devoutly. It seemed that he’d switched roles: the Indian boy was converting the whites.”

Stained glass window in the chapel of Don Bosco Retreat Center, Haverstraw, N.Y. Credit: Fr. Mike Mendl

In 1903 Bishop John Cagliero had him join the aspirants at Viedma, the seat of his vicariate, to start studying Latin. The next year he brought him to Italy to undertake studies more seriously in a climate that seemed better adapted to the boy’s health. He enrolled in the Salesians’ Villa Sora School at Frascati. He studied so diligently that he ranked second in his class.

But an illness that wasn’t diagnosed in time, perhaps because he never complained, threatened him. On March 28, 1905, he was taken to the Fatebenefratelli Hospital on the Tiber Island in Rome. But it was too late. He died peacefully on May 11.

Since 1924 he mortal remains have rested at Fortin Mercedes in his native country, where crowds of pilgrims come to pray to him*. His cause of canonization was introduced in 1944. He was beatified at his birthplace, Chimpay, on November 11, 2007, by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB. (The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, had insisted that the rite take place among his own people rather than in the capital city, the usual practice.)


* Update: Since 2009 his mortal remains were transferred to “el paraje” of San Ignacio, Neuquen province, where until today lives the indian Namuncurá Community (tribe).

The tomb of Ceferino Namuncurá, in “el paraje” San Ignacio – Argentina. Photo Credit: Jakeline Magalhães