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Pope Francis to preside over canonization Mass of Argentina’s first female saint

Sister María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, whose religious name was María Antonia of St. Joseph. / Credit: Public domain

Rome Newsroom, Jan 10, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis next month will preside over the canonization Mass of the woman set to become Argentina’s first female saint, the Vatican said this week.

The pope will preside over the Mass for Blessed María Antonia of St. Joseph on Feb. 11 in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican revealed in its release of the pope’s liturgical schedule for January and February.

María Antonia was proclaimed “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and was later beatified by Pope Francis in 2016. In October, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, to give his authorization for the the promulgation of a miracle attributed to the Argentinian religious sister, paving her way to become the country’s first female saint. 

María Antonia was born in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, in northern Argentina. Her early life was characterized by a fervent desire to serve God. She spent the early part of her ministry helping parents with the instruction of their children and administering care to the sick and poor. 

Following the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish Empire by King Charles III, she traveled around northern Argentina by foot to safeguard and promote Ignatian spirituality, organizing retreats despite the widespread hostility to the Jesuits. 

After the success of these early retreats, she expanded her reach into other regions of Argentina and relocated to Buenos Aires in 1779. While denied permission by imperial authorities to restore the Ignatian tradition, her perseverance paid off when a year later she earned the trust of the local bishop, culminating in the establishment of the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires. 

She died on March 7, 1799, in Buenos Aires and was buried in the cemetery of the Church of the Pietà there. Her body was later moved inside the church and has become a popular pilgrimage destination.  

Among the other events scheduled for the 87-year-old pontiff during the next two months is the Jan. 21 celebration of the Mass on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time, designated as the Sunday of the Word of God.

The observance was established by Pope Francis in 2019 in his motu proprio Aperuit Illis, which declared it a day for “the celebration, study, and dissemination of the word of God.” 

Marking the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the pope will preside over the celebration of second vespers and deliver a homily at the papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 25.

On Feb. 2, the Holy Father will preside over the Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica. This day is also known as Candalmas, as it marks the traditional day of blessing of candles, which represents Christ the light of the world.

Pope Francis will open up the Lenten season at the Church of Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino on Feb. 14, which has been the starting point for the papal penitential procession since 1962. 

The procession will conclude with holy Mass and the imposition of ashes at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the first Roman station church.

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