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 a brief biological sketch of Father Brochero.
José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero was born on the outskirts of Santa Rosa de Rio Primero, Cordoba, on March 16, 1840. He was the fourth of 10 children, who lived from their father’s rural work. He grew up in a profoundly Christian family. Two of his sisters were nuns of the Garden
Having entered the College Seminary of Our Lady of Loreto on March 5, 1856, he was ordained a priest on Nov. 4, 1866. As an assistant in the pastoral tasks of the Cathedral of Cordoba, he carried out his priestly ministry during the cholera epidemic that devastated the city. Being Prefect of Studies of the Major Seminary, he received the title of Master in Philosophy from the University of Cordoba.
At the end of 1869 he took on the extensive parish of Saint Albert of 4,336 square kilometers (1,675 square miles), with just over 10,000 inhabitants who lived in distant places with no roads or schools, cutoff by the Great Highlands of more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) of altitude. The moral state and material indigence of its inhabitants was lamentable. However, Brochero’s apostolic heart was not discouraged, but from that moment on he dedicated his whole life not only to bring the Gospel to the inhabitants but to educate and promote them. The year after arriving, he began to take men and women to Cordoba to do the Spiritual Exercises. It took three days on the back of a mule to cover the 200 kilometers (125 miles), in caravans that often exceeded 500 people. More than once they were surprised by strong snow storms. On returning, after nine days in silence, prayer and penance, his faithful began to change their lives, following the Gospel and working for the economic development of the region.
In 1875, with the help of his faithful, he began the building of the Houses of Exercises of the then Villa del Transito (locality that today is named after him). It was inaugurated in 1877 with groups that exceeded 700 people, a total of more than 40,000 going through it during his parish ministry. As a complement, he built the House for women religious, the Girls’ School and the residence for priests. With his faithful he built more than 200 kilometers of roads and several churches. He founded villages and was concerned about the education of all. He requested and obtained from the authorities courier posts, post offices and telegraphic posts. He planned the rail network that would go through the Valley of Traslasierra joining Villa Dolores and Soto to bring the beloved highlanders out of the poverty in which they found themselves, “abandoned by all but not by God,” as he said.
He preached the Gospel, using the language of his faithful to make it comprehensible to his listeners. He celebrated the sacraments, always carrying what was necessary for the Mass on the back of his mule. No sick person was left without the sacraments, as neither the rain nor the cold stopped him. “Woe if the devil is going to rob a soul from me,” he said. He gave himself totally to all, especially the poor and the estranged, whom he sought diligently to bring them close to God. A few days after his death, the Catholic newspaper of Cordoba wrote: “It is known that Father Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.” Because of his illness, he gave up the parish, living a few years with his sisters in his native village. However, responding to the request of his former faithful, he returned to his House of Villa del Transito, dying leprous and blind on Jan. 26, 1914.