At the historic cathedral in the Argentine city of Salta, the diocesan investigation was initiated into the life, virtues, reputation for holiness and signs of the Servant of God Salustiano Miguélez Romero (Santibáñez de Tera, Zamora, Spain, 1919-Madrid, 1999) a professed priest of the Order of St. Augustine.
In the first part of the ceremony, which took place on the vigil eve of the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Mario Antonio Cargnello, Archbishop of Salta, presided over a Mass of thanksgiving for the gift of the life of this Augustinian friar. Archbishop Cargnello drew attention to the feast, saying that it was providential to highlight the link between holiness and the Eucharist, and how the saints and other persons who have died in the odour of sanctity, like Salustiano Miguélez, "remain for us as beacons, and teach us to be bread broken for others".
Those present at Mass included Fr Alexander Lam (Assistant General for Latin America, representing the Prior General), Fr Ángel Rodríguez García, superior of the Augustinian vicariate of Argentina and Uruguay, and Fr Pablo Hernández Moreno, collaborator of the postulator general - as well as several Augustinian friars, Augustinian missionary nuns, members of the diocesan clergy and numerous faithful.
Following Mass, the Archbishop stressed the historic importance of the opening of the process - the first since the diocese was founded in 1806 - at the first public session of the diocesan enquiry, during which His Excellency, the members of the tribunal and the postulator general were sworn in.
All with a single purpose: to see Salustiano Miguélez recognised as a saint.
About the life and work of Salustiano (1919-1999)
Fr. Salustiano was born in Santibáñez de Tera in the Province of Zamora, Spain, on 19th February 1919, the fourth child of deeply Christian parents Anastasio Miguélez Lera and María del Socorro Romero Álvarez. He was baptised in the parish church of San Juan Bautista. He did his early studies at a local school, under the respected teacher Don Emeterio, and from 1930 to 1932 he completed his secondary studies at the neighbouring Preceptoría de Rosinos de Vidriales. In 1933 he entered the Augustinian Apostolic School, at the historic Monastery of Santiago Apostol y Castillo, in the town of Uclés, Province of Cuenca, where the Order of St Augustine had its formation house and novitiate. Here, he continued his secondary studies until on 11th October 1934, he took the habit of novice. He was simply professed one year and one day later, after which he started his philosophy studies, with great enthusiasm and full dedication.
Life everywhere was interrupted shortly afterwards, however, when the Spanish Civil War broke out on 18th July, 1936. Salustiano was 17 years old, and like all the seminarians, he was expelled from the Seminary on 24 July. In the days that followed, several Augustinian friars were martyred. The students were distributed among the families of Uclés, and for the best part of two years Salustiano worked in his host family’s fields to earn his daily bread.
On the Republican side during the Civil War
In January 1938, aged 19, he joined the Republican army in Cuenca, despite his diminutive stature and babyface. Assigned to auxiliary services, on 11th July he left for the Alto del León. Persistently hungry, agitated by the unending sound of gunfire, and faced with the approach of the Nationalists, he felt an overwhelming urge to go AWOL, which he resisted because the men were closely watched, and any attempt to leave would certainly have ended in him being shot. However, by the end of August he could no longer resist the pull of his conscience and set out to escape, or die in the attempt. When night fell and the time to escape came, he commended himself to the Blessed Virgin and to our Father Augustine; as he was leaving the guardhouse, he ran into a fellow soldier, and chatted nonchalantly until he reached the chosen spot, when he said to him: "What light is that? Go and see if you can find out." After his companion had gone to see, Salustiano emptied his rifle and abandoned it. He threw his companion's rifle away, took his hand grenades, and jumped over the barbed wire fence. He started to run and a few minutes later he heard the Nationalists shouting "Halt!” Salustiano replied that he was deserting, they ordered him to continue upwards clapping his hands; but he could not move because he had become entangled in the barbed wire and was resigned to being shot. However, a good soldier went to his aid, took his grenades, untangled him and hugged him. The emotion left him speechless for a moment. He made his statement, and the next day his case was in the national press under the title "The last man out."
When the war was over, in 1939 he moved to the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de La Vid, seeking to return home to the Order of St. Augustine. On 1st January 1941 he made his solemn profession in the monastery, at the feet of the precious image of the Virgin.
In 1942 he moved to Zaragoza, where he continued his theological studies with friars from the Province of the Philippines, as a result of the shortage of Spanish students in the years after the civil war. The following year, he once more returned to the Monastery of La Vid, and on 23rd December 1944 he was ordained priest in Madrid by Bishop Eijo y Garay. Fr Salustiano was now 25 years old. A few days later, on January 3, 1945, he celebrated the first solemn mass in his hometown of Santibáñez de Tera. After a holiday, he was assigned to the University of Salamanca, where he earned a degree in Canon Law (1945-1947). On September 25, 1947, he was assigned to the Colegio del Buen Consejo in Madrid, as a professor and in charge of the Interns. He subsequently moved back to the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de La Vid, primarily as professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law, but with some responsibility for professed students (1951-1954).
A skilled and talented operator
At the Chapter of 1954, a mere seven years after his ordination, he was appointed prior of the Monastery of La Vid, a position he held for two years. Next, he was elected secretary of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Spain. This meant a move to Madrid - a temporary move, as it turned out, as his commitment and competence were recognised and rewarded in October 1959 with his appointment as Secretary General of the Order, based at the General Curia in Rome. This was an exciting time to arrive in Rome, as the Second Vatican Council was starting.in Rome. In 1965, he was appointed Assistant General.
It was at this time that the Prelature of Cafayate, in the north of the Argentine Republic, was opened as a place of mission. Having concluded his service in the Curia, he returned to Madrid in December 1971 and the following year he volunteered to be assigned to Cafayate. There, he was initially appointed parish priest of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, in Santa María, Catamarca, staying for 16 years. His next assignment was with the community of Santa Teresa, in Salta, taking over as the cooperating vicar of San Antonio. He loved Argentina; and his work blossomed. Working closely with his parishioners, he built up an enduring legacy: a compact and spiritually united community. In late 1999, he returned to Spain for a vacation where, although he had been living with lung cancer, he took a turn for the worse and after some treatment, unexpectedly died. His death was deeply felt by those he had served, particularly his friends in the Vicariate of San Antonio.
Love for, and dedication to, the Order and St Augustine
Still to this day, Fr Salustiano is remembered with fond affection in the city of Salta, where many who knew him still give testimony to his holiness in life.
His tireless devotion to work where his commitment to obedience led him, allowed him to sow the seeds and cultivate a number of projects on behalf of his flock. He was constantly busy with his work, next to those who needed him most. He did not know what it meant to stop and rest, but remained fully occupied with the people who needed him most. Not infrequently he was seen, in his Augustinian habit, walking in the seedier parts of town where prostitution was conducted, talking to exploited women who were trapped in a cycle of suffering and injustice. He offered solace and encouraged them to make different choices, more in keeping with their dignity as human beings. Children were his favourites, and he often found himself in their company, sharing the Word of God in a simple way. He loved to guide couples, before or after marriage, helping them to more fully discover their calling to nurture a Christian family. With young people, he did not limit himself to their general Christian formation, but also encouraged them to consider and accept the challenge of a vocation to the Augustinian consecrated life. Indeed, he was not unsuccessful in this! He loved the Order and had great affection for Augustinian devotions, and wherever he worked, he propagated them.
He supported all this with a dedicated life of prayer. Witnesses tell how he could be seen alone in the chapel, before celebrating the sacred mysteries, in a state of intense prayer. His filial devotion to Mother Mary was evident in his daily devotions. As he walked through the neighbourhood he could be seen with his rosary in hand, silently praying.
Where does his reputation for holiness come from?
He lived his Augustinian vocation with an intense love for St Augustine. It was not just an intellectual love, but the love of a son for his spiritual father, a love that formed him for the common life, according to the central principles of the Rule. He was overjoyed to have been called to this form of consecrated life, to serve Christ and his Church which he loved so much. Like Augustine, he had lived with pain and sickness, eyes turned towards heaven, preparing for the encounter with God the Father but wholly certain, as he had often affirmed, that God is rich in mercy. And so, on 16th December 1999, aged 80 and 64 years after joining the Order, Fr Salustiano went to his reward.
His reputation for holiness that still persists long after his death is a visible sign of his simple but devoted way of living the Gospel, giving himself entirely out of love and with love for God and his brothers and sisters.