On Saturday, Pope Francis sent a letter to the president of the Argentine episcopal conference on the occasion of the beatification that day of Father José Gabriel Brochero.
The native of Cordoba, Argentina, died in 1914.
In his letter, Francis invites the bishops of Argentina: “Let us allow Father Brochero to come, mule and all, into the home of our hearts, and invite us to prayer, to an encounter with Jesus, that we be freed from our chains so as to go out on the streets in search of our brother, to touch the flesh of Christ in the one who suffers and needs the love of God.”
Here is an interview with the postulator of his cause, Doctor Silvia Correale,
Correale was appointed postulator of the priest’s cause in 2009, when the decree of his heroic virtues had already been approved by the Commission of Cardinals, and for the specific work of presenting the “positio” of the probable miracle.
“We worked a lot to reach the publication of the decree. I felt supported in this ecclesial journey by Monsignor Santiago Oliveira and by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He used to comment then that given that we had worked so much, the result would be very great, an ecclesial bomb. Of course I never thought that, in a few months from Benedict XVI’s authorization and the publication of the decree, Cardinal Bergoglio would be elected Pope. However, I’m sure that Father Brochero interceded before the Lord so that he would illumine the Cardinals present in the Conclave for the election of a Pontiff disciple of Christ and missionary,” said Correale.
ZENIT: Don’t you find it curious that this beatification is happening when there is an Argentine Pope who speaks about going to the fringes?
Correale: When I was appointed postulator, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference. That the beatification is taking place when there is an Argentine Pope who speaks of going to the fringes is a sign of Providence. On Dec. 21, when we gave the news that the miracle had been approved, I pointed out that the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires had very much supported this cause of beatification, which wasn’t of his diocese and which he followed very closely.
ZENIT: Why was this cause so important?
Correale: This cause had precedence because it’s very important for Argentina. Father Brochero, who is called the gaucho priest, born in Cordoba, was able to live his fidelity to Christ and to the Church in his priestly vocation with the language and way of being very typical of our land, of our people. Argentine and Latin American priests need the model of a holy priest close to simple people, as Father Brochero was.
Brochero was born on March 16, 1840, at Santa Rosa de Rio Primero, in the Argentine province of Cordoba. He entered the Major Seminary of “Our Lady of Loreto” on March 5, 1856, when he was 16. He was ordained a priest on November 4, 1866, while studying for his licentiate and doctorate in Philosophy. He carried out his first priestly ministry in the Cathedral of Cordoba. Having obtained his doctorate, he was appointed Prefect of Studies of the Major Seminary. In 1869 he was sent to the parish of Saint Albert, and while there he was able to be inculturated in the reality of his people.
ZENIT: What happened when he went from the University to the Highlands?
Correale: When he arrived the people of the area received him very well, as it was an area forgotten by all. However, as the gaucho priest said: “Forgotten by all but not by God.” Father Brochero was a missionary disciple of Christ. He is the everyday parish priest of simple people, of the total fringe.
The biographies that have been published are full of anecdotes, because he was a Father, a pastor. Those that I know are worthy of consideration. They have been transmitted by oral tradition; people say: my great great grandfather told my great grandfather, etc.
ZENIT: How did the gaucho priest organize his evangelization?
Correale: He realized that everything had to be done: spiritual work but an educational itinerary was also necessary for the population. It was an area that had remained very isolated; there were no roads and no train service. Two years after his death the city called Villa del Transito was rechristened Villa Father Brochero. He had the aqueduct built and with some men of the area he worked to cut the first road, which later became 200 kilometers of a way of communication. He obtained from the authorities message posts, a post office and telegraphic posts. He planned the rail network that joins Villa Dolores and Soto.
ZENIT: But there are now other Blesseds and Servants of God in Argentina. Why, then, this priority?
Correale: We don’t have a Saint who was born, lived and died in Argentina. The only one is Saint Hector Valdivieso but from a very early age he went to Spain with his parents who were in Argentina for a period as immigrants. In Spain he joined the La Salle Brothers, and died killed in the period of the Spanish religious persecution. We have, instead, some Blessed men and women. Laura Vicuna, who was born in Chile and died in Junin de los Andes. Ceferino Namuncura, who was born and lived in Argentina in the Mapuche community and died in Italy. There is also Blessed Mother Cabanillas, who was born, lived and died in Argentina. We have Aristide Zatti of Patagonia, but he was born in Italy. And also Crecencia Perez who was born, lived and died in the country and was beatified in November of 2012.
The particularity is that Father Brochero was a priest, a man of prayer, attentive to the social commitment as fruit of his pastoral charity. We need many such priests everywhere. And he is a model for Argentine and South American priests because we don’t have many diocesan priests, parish priests models of holiness.
ZENIT: Specifically, how did Father Brochero evangelize?
Correale: Father realized that the people of the area needed to be built-up as persons and he singled out in Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises the instrument to evangelize. The first few times he went on foot in a caravan to preach them; he also accompanied the faithful of his parish in caravans and always on foot to do the Exercises in the city of Cordoba. At a certain point in 1875, he decided to build a House of Spiritual Exercises next to the parish, in what was then Villa del Transito. It was a communal action with the people of the area. Gauchos came on horseback and people were converted who were dedicated to illicit activities. To learn how a House of Retreats functioned, he spent months living in the House of Exercises of Buenos Aires, founded by the Venerable Servant of God Maria Antonia de San Jose (1730-1799).
ZENIT: So Father Brochero knew other persons of great virtue?
Correale: Yes, he knew of Maria Antonia, born in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, and known there as Mama Antula (Antonia in Santiago’s Quechua). She lived the last 20 years of her life in the city of Buenos Aires, and has been Venerable since July of 2010, when Benedict XVI authorized the publication of the decree of her heroic virtues. At present the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is studying a probable miracle attributed to her intercession; she is an example of life and faith for all Argentine women. From her profound love of God she carried out a task of evangelization and education in evangelical values in the society of her time and, hence, of our May great men [of the Independence movement]. Therefore, she can be considered the spiritual mother of the fatherland.
The flame she lighted through Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises found in Father Brochero’s heart and mind a place to continue to burn and pointed out to him the task to carry out in his beloved Villa del Transito.
ZENIT: How did the gaucho priest die?
Visiting leprous patients he contracted this sickness that obliged him to give up his parish and live some years with his sisters in his native village. However, at the request of the faithful of the diocese, he returned to the House in Villa del Transito, where he died leprous and blind on January 26, 1914.