Cañas y Calvo, Blas

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Chilean founder of homes for children; b. Santiago, Feb. 3, 1827; d. there, March 23, 1886. He was the son of José Antonio Cañas and Mercedes Calvo and came from a family that had many priests, among them the first Chilean archbishop, Manuel Vicuña, who baptized him. In 1836 he entered the seminary in Santiago, where he was a brilliant and pious student. He was ordained Sept. 22, 1849. Subsequently, he was professor at the seminary, joining the faculty of theology in 1859. He preached in the capital in a powerful but simple style, dogmatic yet evangelical. He served as a chaplain for nuns and held several other minor ecclesiastical positions. He acquired a reputation for sanctity and was known for his great love for the poor. On Aug. 15, 1856, he founded La Casa de María, a place of asylum and education for girls of poor families, and established a congregation of nuns to run it. A pontifical congregation since 1941, this group had 50 nuns in 1964 and conducted similar houses in Santiago, Valparaíso, and Mendoza (Argentina). In 1872 he founded a similar institution for boys, Patrocinio de San José, which is now under the care of the Salesians. Cañas y Calvo was expert in obtaining alms for his houses; his humility elicited them even from non-Christians. He shunned honors, and against his will the government presented his name to Rome for the bishopric of Concepciín. However, he died before any appointment was made.

Bibliography: c. fernÁndez freite, Don Blas Cañas el Vicente de Paul chileno (Santiago 1936). m. a. romÁn, Vida del señor D. Blas Cañas (Santiago 1887).

[f. araneda bravo]