Nieves, Elías del Socorro, Bl.

views updated


Baptized Mateo Elías (Matthew Elijah), Augustinian martyr of Communist revolutionaries; b. Isla San Pedro, Yuriria, Guanajuato, Mexico, Sept. 21, 1882; d. near Cortazar, Mexico, March 10, 1928.

Born into a modest peasant family and baptized with urgency because he was in danger of death, Nieves had an early, strong vocation to the priesthood. However, he contracted tuberculosis and was temporarily blind (age 12). He regained his sight, and he assumed the responsibilities as head of household upon his father's death. Nevertheless, he was admitted (1904) to the Augustinian college at Yuriria. When he professed his vows (1911), Mateo took the name Elías del Socorro (Elijah of Our Lady of Succor) in acknowledgment of the help he received overcoming his hardships. He was ordained in 1916.

Nieves served in various parishes within Guanajauto until he was assigned to the poor, isolated parish of La Cañada de Caracheo in 1921, where he helped to build the churchphysically and spiritually. In disobedience to governmental orders (1926) that forced priests to abandon rural areas, Nieves courageously hid in a cave in the nearby hills of La Gavia in order to continue administering the sacraments to his parishioners under the cover of darkness.

After fourteen months of clandestine ministry, he was arrested together with two campesinos, José Dolores and José de Jesús Sierra. Although he was dressed in the rags of a peasant, the hem of his habit betrayed him. He was questioned, and since he immediately admitted being a priest, he was detained. A parishioner negotiated for the freedom of the laymen, but they refused to abandon their pastor. En route under guard to the provincial capital of Cortazar, the two companions were killed. At the next resting place, Nieves was taunted and then shot. He faced death with fortitude, blessing his executioners, and witnessing to his faith in Christ.

His body has been moved to the parish church at La Cañada de Caracheo. Fr. Elías was beatified by Pope John Paul II, Oct. 12, 1997, together with another Augustinian, Mother Maria Teresa fasce, who documented Nieves's martyrdom for her convent. He is a patron of Mexico.

Feast: Oct. 11.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, no. 20 (1997): 999. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 42 (1997): 1, 2, 11, 12.

[k. i. rabenstein]