November 19th: S.G. Joseph Mark Fiqueroa, SJ

Servant of God Joseph Mark Fiqueroa, SJ

Born: October 7, 1865
Died: November 19, 1942

Joseph Figueroa was born in the tiny village of Tinajo, on the island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands. His father was a farmer but because farming on the island was difficult and he wanted to offer his children a better future, he emigrated with his family to Uruguay and set up a farm at Santa Lucia outside Montevideo. Joseph spent his youth helping his father on the farm and to prepare him to take over the farm eventually, his father sent him to school for four months to learn to read, write and do basic arithmetic sufficient for him to handle the finances involved in operating a farm.

The priest of the parish church that the Figueroa family attended soon observed Joseph’s regularity at Mass and in receiving the Sacraments. He also observed that the youth was serious minded and given to sound piety he inquired whether Joseph was interested in a religious vocation. When Joseph indicated that he was so inclined, the pastor arranged for him to meet the Jesuit rector of the Montevideo seminary. The latter convinced that Joseph indeed had a vocation introduced him to the Provincial superior who eventually accepted him as a brother. Joseph left home on August 15, 1886 and began his apostulancy at the college at Montevideo where he spent time getting to know the Jesuit life and doing household tasks.

After six months he went to Cordoba, Argentina, and began his noviceship on August 15, 1886. On May 29, 1888, he was transferred to Santa Fe where for a time he helped the infirmarian and the house buyer. He pronounced his religious vows on August 15 and in the following year became assistant to the college porter at the Jesuit College of the Immaculate Conception, a position he took over in 1891 and held for fifty-four years until his death. Br Figueroa witnessed many changes during his time at the college which expanded both in terms of student population and the physical size. He knew every student who passed through the school and many of them kept in touch with him even after graduation. He showed special respect for the diocesan seminarian as they were future priests who were then part of the College until 1906 when Santa Fe became a diocese and the seminary was separated from the college. He helped to foster their spiritual life and to aid them in their studies, he acted as a clearing house for them, ordering periodicals as well as devotional and theological books from abroad.

After the seminarians became priests they continued to make use of his service. As the college grew his work as a porter increased. Telephones were installed and he took on the tasks of taking messages and running around in search of people. Notwithstanding what hour of the day it was, Br Figueroa was always patient and cheerful, making visitors feel welcome and important. He enjoyed good health until 1940 when he was seventy-five years old when he started to suffer from heart trouble and began to feel tired and needed more frequent rest. However after a short rest, he was back to work. When he caught pneumonia in June 1942, everyone expected this to be the end, but he recovered and by August he was again back at his post. He continued until November 19, when his heart that gave so much to others, now gave itself totally to God.

At his death Fr Figueroa’s friends numbered tens of thousands who felt they had lost someone especially close to them. The archbishop ordered all the churches in Santa Fe to toll their bells and the city magistrate ordered the funeral cortege to follow the same route as for a high-ranking government official.

Fr Figueroa, it seems, never received extraordinary graces from God; there were no visions nor ecstasies in his life. His holiness was born from a sincere humility, a deep piety, and a profound love of God. Shortly after his death the diocese of Santa Fe urgedthe promotion of his cause, and it is presently under study.