Pope Francis recognizes miracle that paves way for first female Argentinian saint

Maria Antonia of St. Joseph Sister María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, whose religious name was María Antonia of St. Joseph. | Credit: Public domain

The Vatican on Tuesday announced that Pope Francis has authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to an 18th-century Argentinian religious sister, paving the way for her to become the first female Argentine saint.

The Holy See said in a press release that Francis met with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, authorizing the dicastery to issue “the decree regarding the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed María Antonia of Saint Joseph.”

Vatican News noted that María Antonia, known affectionately as “Mama Antula,” was the founder of the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“After the expulsion of the Jesuits from the country, she went from town to town in the poor regions of northeastern Argentina promoting retreats in the Ignatian tradition,” Vatican News said. In less than a decade she offered retreats to tens of thousands of people.

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints said on its website that after settling in Buenos Aires in 1779, Antonia “soon obtained the esteem and trust of the bishop, who granted her several and extensive faculties.”

She was “esteemed for her exceptional prudence,” the dicastery said, having been known for “asking for advice, before making any kind of decision, from wise people and religious authorities.” She was, for many people, “an example of humble and spontaneous simplicity, capable of edifying through her availability and wisdom.”

Blessed María Antonia was born in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, Argentina, and died on March 7, 1799, in Buenos Aires. Her body “was buried in absolute poverty in the cemetery next to the church of the Pietà of Buenos Aires,” the dicastery said; later, it was “transferred to the same, where today it is a destination for pilgrimages.”

She was proclaimed Venerable in 2010 and beatified in 2016.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, reported on Tuesday that the Catholic Church in Argentina experienced a “historic day” of “immense joy” upon learning of the Holy Father’s announcement.

The Holy House of Spiritual Exercises proudly posted on Facebook of the “first Argentine saint!” while wishing that her “holiness be an impulse for the evangelization of our homeland.” She will be, more accurately, Argentina's first female saint.

Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Giobando of Buenos Aires showed a similar excitement, according to ACI Prensa, with the prelate writing his gratitude on Facebook.

Father Pedro Brassesco, who is in Rome participating in the Synod of Synodality, also referred to the event on his Facebook account, noting: “How beautiful it would be if Pope Francis could go to Argentina to canonize her.”

The first Argentinian saint overall was San Benito de Jesús, who was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999.

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