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Rome Reports

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A shepherd close to his flock: Fr. Tiburcio Arnáiz


Before the pope used the expression “shepherd with the smell of a sheep,” there were already many of them who only knew how to live close to their herd. One of them is Tiburcio Arnáiz, a Spanish Jesuit born in the 19th century who would share many things in common with Pope Francis. 

SR. LETICIA MONTERO
General Director, Rural Missionaries

“Pope Francis and Fr. Arnáiz would've understood each other well – so much so that even if various Jesuits were working in large communities, Fr. Arnáiz was the one who dedicated himself to the most marginalized, poorest areas, to the farthest farms.”

Tiburcio Arnáiz will be beatified this year. He was a simple priest who founded the Missionaries of Rural Doctrines congregation in Spain in 1921.

His wish was to bring God's presence to the most needy, to whom he also wanted to introduce culture. Thus, he founded various schools in especially difficult places yet to receive help from anyone.  

SR. LETICIA MONTERO
General Director, Rural Missionaries

“The first time he went into those neighborhoods, he says they insulted him and threw a dead rat at him. The life of Fr. Arnáiz was no simpler than ours. The neighborhoods where he worked were those with anti-religious sentiments and socially complicated, but he was unmoved. He says, 'We have to get to them.'”

He achieved it with the help of a group of lay women like María Isabel González del Valle, a young girl from high society who didn't hesitate to live on the periphery. 

SR. LETICIA MONTERO
General Director, Rural Missionaries

“Fr. Arnáiz said, 'When God wants something, He sends the people and the means,' and He sent an Asturian girl, María Isabel González del Valle. I think this a time, before the beatification, to get to know the life of a Jesuit who worked hard for the most needy and disadvantaged, managing to involve many lay people in his ministry.”

Today, these missionaries follow the example of their founder and provide religious and cultural formation. For example, they give conceptual classes for obtaining a driver's license and English or music classes. When one community no longer needs their help, the sisters will turn to the next group, following the example of Fr. Arnáiz, who died in 1926 already known for his holiness.