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Margil, Antonio, ven.


Franciscan missionary, promoter of missionary colleges in Spanish America; b. Valencia, Spain, Aug. 18, 1657; d. Mexico City, Aug. 6, 1726. Margil had been a Franciscan since 1673 and had been ordained (1682) when he arrived, with 22 other friars, in Veracruz, Mexico, on June 6, 1683. His name is linked inseparably with the development of the missionary college of the Propagation of the Faith. This institution, an autonomous community of friars dedicated to missionary work, was planned to meet the changed circumstances in 17th-century Mexico.

The natives, now dispersed from the pueblos where Christianization was carried on in the 16th century, required that the Church come to them, rather than that they come to the Church. This necessitated the development of highly mobile missionaries trained in new methods, and supported from outside the area where they worked. The missionary college was designed to meet this need. The first college, founded by Antonio Llinás in 1683, was Santa Cruz de Querétaro. Since its founder left Mexico in 1684 and never returned, Margil was responsible for the transformation of the college into an effective reality. He guided the college of Querétaro through its formative years and developed two other missionary colleges as well: Cristo Crucificado, Guatemala City, founded in June 1701, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Zacatecas, in July 1708.

In addition to his administrative work at these colleges, Margil worked out from them in the missions in

Mexico, Central America as far south as Cartago near Panama, and north to present-day Louisiana and Texas. He was an indefatigable missionary and a powerful preacher. At his death his reputation for sanctity was widespread. His remains, buried in the Franciscan church, were transferred to the Cathedral in 1861. The formal canonical investigation of his life was begun in 1771; Pope Gregory XVI issued the decree that his virtues were heroic in 1836.

Bibliography: e. e. rios, Life of Fray Antonio Margil, O.F.M., tr. b. leutenegger (Washington 1959).

[b. leutenegger]

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