Argentine devotions, or how to rescue people from the street with statuettes of saints and blesseds

From rome

“Argentine Devotions” it is a project that goes beyond the religious world. Originally born in August 2020 from an idea and proposal of the current Argentine ambassador to the Holy See, María Fernanda Silva, “Argentine Devotions” wants to spread the stories of various saints and candidates for very popular saints in Argentina and that little is known in the Vatican and in the world. For that, with the help of the Argentine Investment and International Trade Agency and the Missionaries of Francisco movement, they were created three artistic workshops in the city and the Buenos Aires suburbs where jobs are given to street people, the unemployed, battered women, former drug and alcohol addicts and other people from vulnerable sectors. Professional designers teach them how to make the figurines. And each receives a small salary.

“The idea was to unite popular religiosity and bring people who were in need back to work in the popular economy,” he told Page 12 Ambassador Silva. “I have prioritized the task of the saints and saints of Argentina since I was an ambassador. But I did not have images to disseminate and disseminate them. It seemed like a crazy thing. Perhaps someone will have thought that it was better if I agreed with the Investment Agency for other companies that already do religious things to make them. A few days after the first meeting in August 2020, the Agency organized another meeting in which the Missionaries of Francis were present. And we began to give life to the project. ”

Virgin of Luján, Negro Manuel and Mama Antula

At first there were three devotions, the patron saint of Argentina, the Virgin of Luján, and two of the oldest candidates for saints in the country, El Negro Manuel and Mama Antula. El Negro Manuel, born in Guinea in the seventeenth century, was captured and sold as a slave. He arrived in Brazil where he was sold again to make a trip to Buenos Aires in order to carry an image of the Virgin Mary. He cared for that image of the Virgin all his life. It was the year 1630. Mama Antula, as the natives called her, born in Santiago de Estero in 1730 into a family of colonizers, at the age of 15 she dedicated herself to religious life, always following in the footsteps of the Jesuits. But when the Jesuits were expelled from the entire Spanish empire between 1767 and 1768, she decided to follow in their footsteps and walked from Santiago to Buenos Aires where years later she founded a center for spiritual exercises that still exists today. She was consecrated Blessed in 2016.

According to the rules of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which is in charge of evaluating candidates for saints, there are four levels that the candidate must overcome: heroic virtues, venerable (in both cases after a long investigation), beatification. (after having demonstrated the realization of a miracle) and canonization (after a second miracle). The processes are very long, they can take several decades or more, as in the case of Negro Manuel and Mama Antula. But they are also sometimes delayed due to lack of interest on the part of the Vatican because the characters are little known. And this project wants to spread these stories. TOrgentina has about 50 canonization causes initiatedSaid the ambassador who had a YouTube channel opened to spread them.

“It is important that other people know about these causes and this project so that they know that the discarded, as Pope Francis calls them, can return to work and that we welcome them and give them hope,” continued the ambassador. experience is replicated elsewhere. There are countries that have shown interest in knowing it. And maybe we can do it as a Latin American job, as Latin American devotions ”. And she concluded: “I am very happy that a project that at first seemed very difficult could be carried out and that many people who in August 2020 were on the street with a broken life and a broken soul, today have work, and study and He can afford a life in the community and is reunited with his family, with his children whom he could not see because he was on the street. I believe that we are helping them to recover their souls and that this is a transformative example. Argentine Devotions is the story of the encounter between Argentines and Argentines ”.

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The first three statuettes made by the Argentine Devotions workshops have already reached the Vatican, Santa Marta where the Pope lives, the Argentine Church in Rome, the Argentine Foreign Minister’s office, the Casa Rosada. The next statuettes will be dedicated to other candidates for saints: Father Enrique Angelelli – the bishop of La Rioja who opposed the military dictatorship and was assassinated by it in a false car accident in 1976 and since 2019 he is blessed-, Father Bachi -a villero priest who died of covid in 2020 because he preferred to stay with his people despite knowing that he was at risk from his previous illnesses- and the Brochero priest, who lived in the 19th century in Córdoba and has been a saint since 2016.

Francisco Investment and Missionaries Agency

Martín Navarro, Director of International Development of the Argentine Investment and International Trade Agency – which among other things accompanies companies on their export journey – also defines himself as “one more missionary” of Missionaries of Francisco. As a representative of the agency, he was in Rome with the objective of contacting merchants as eventual importers of Argentine Devotions.

Missionaries of Francis, a movement born shortly after the election of the Argentine pope in 2013, “I had the idea of ​​developing this type of thing for a long time but it was not done. From the meeting with Ambassador María Fernanda Silva in 2020, the idea came to life. Missionaries of Francisco created a cooperative and is taking it forward. The objective is to rescue workers, people from the street. The devotions were a beautiful excuse, a spiritual excuse to get it. Let’s hope that the work teams will consolidate over time ”, Navarro told Page 12 in Rome.

Currently Argentine Devotions has two workshops in the province of Buenos Aires, one in Luján visited by President Alberto Fernández and another in Tres de Febrero, Y a third in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Constitución. The project could be carried out thanks to the financial resources provided by INAES, the National Institute of Associativism and Social Economy. The people who work in the workshops are detected in the places where popular pots are made, in which many popular movements such as the Missionaries of Francisco participate. In the popular pots, questions are asked of the people who go and those who could collaborate are detected.

Navarro’s goal in Rome was “to have some meetings with merchants and within the Vatican to see if there was interest in these devotions. I found a good reception but we have to keep working because we have to comply with certain legal requirements to be able to export from Argentina to the Vatican and trade. We are already working on that. Maybe next year we will be ready, ”he said. He was recently in Mexico and the program was interesting and also in Spain, he said. “You have to look for places that have a cultural similarity with Argentina, even Latin America to make small exports. In any case, it is a long-term and difficult path. But it is a road to travel, “he added, underlining that Ambassador Silva” has been a great promoter of this and has always encouraged us to continue, bearing in mind that this project has been developed in the midst of a pandemic. ” Navarro came to Rome as a representative of the Agency to try to consolidate this project. “When we decided to include popular sectors in this idea, we know that with these products we are not going to solve the need for dollars that Argentina needs. But if we help people a little. Both the Investment Agency and the Foreign Ministry, social development and other entities have helped a lot, they have guided us. It is good that it is known. As it is good that the e-mail to order statuettes is known: [email protected] ”, concluded Navarro.

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