VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Maria Antonia de Paz Figueroa, an 18th-century consecrated lay woman from Argentina.
The Vatican press office said the pope signed the decree, which clears the way for her canonization, during an audience Oct. 24 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.
The sainthood candidate, known affectionately as “Mama Antula,” was a student and later master of Ignatian spiritual exercises and, after the Jesuits were expelled from Argentina, she continued to lead Ignatian retreats.
“Her exemplary Christian testimony, especially her apostolate to promote the Spiritual Exercises (of St. Ignatius of Loyola) can awaken the desire to cling to Christ and the Gospel,” Pope Francis said after her beatification in 2016.
She had consecrated herself to God at the age of 15, choosing to dress in a black robe and taking the name Maria Antonia of Saint Joseph. She later formed a religious community of women, the Daughters of the Divine Savior, who prayed together, did works of charity and assisted the local Jesuits.
When the Jesuits were expelled from the Argentina in 1767, she took it upon herself to continue offering the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, traveling thousands of miles on foot to lead 10-day retreats in various provinces in the country.
Her mission took her to Buenos Aires where thousands attended the retreats, ultimately leading her to establish the Holy House of Spiritual Exercises in 1796. She died in 1799.