BUENOS AIRES – Crowds of the faithful attended Saturday in the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero the beatification ceremony of Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa (1730-1799), better known as Mama Antula, who spread the Ignatian spiritual exercises in the area after the Jesuits were expelled.
Tens of thousands of the faithful bearing religious images joined the procession that ended at an altar in Obispo Gerardo Sueldo Plaza.
Even Argentina’s Vice President Gabriela Cichetti came to Santiago del Estero to attend the beatification of Mama Antula and read the Gospel at the ceremony.
“It is a singular event for Argentina and the Catholic Church, because she was an amiable, dynamic, monastic, wise and virtuous woman, she loved Jesus and she loved her people,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told the press.
“The Catholic Church is very pleased with the beatification of Mama Antula, the glorification of a dynamic woman that Pope Francis sees with jubilation,” the cardinal said at the ceremony in which the religious was declared beatified.
This Friday, around 100 young people from different parts of Argentina kept a vigil downtown in the provincial capital in honor of this historic celebration.
Blessed Maria Antonia, who was never a nun but formed a religious community with other women, was known in the 18th century for her immense spiritual and social works.
In 1795 she founded the House of Spiritual Exercises, which today is one of Argentina’s historic monuments.
It is estimated that some 150,000 souls came to do their devotions during the lifetime of Maria Antonia, who promoted the spiritual exercises combined with social integration, as was seen, for example, when ladies of high society and their maids prayed together.
The miracle that enabled the Vatican to approve her beatification was the cure, in 1904, of a nun of the Daughters of the Divine Savior, whom doctors declared terminally ill but who recovered miraculously a few days after being entrusted to the intercession of Mama Antula.
Starting this Saturday, Mama Antula joins the list of the beatified born in Argentina along with Crescencia Perez, Maria del Transito de Jesus Sacramentado, Ceferino Namuncura and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero.