Back to Augustinian Servants of God

Augustine of Coruña

Augustinian Servant of God

ILLUSTRATION OF AUGUSTINE OF CORUNA BY JÁNOS HAJNAL IN IL FASCINO DI DIO: PROFILI DE AGIOGRAFIA AGOSTINIANA  BY FERNANDO ROJO MARTÍNEZ, O.S.A.  COPYRIGHT © 2000 PUBBLICAZIONI AGOSTINIANE ROME. USED WITH PERMISSION.  ORIGINAL ART PRESERVED IN THE OFFICE OF AUGUSTINIAN POSTULATOR OF CAUSES, ROME

ILLUSTRATION OF AUGUSTINE OF CORUNA BY JÁNOS HAJNAL IN IL FASCINO DI DIO: PROFILI DE AGIOGRAFIA AGOSTINIANA  BY FERNANDO ROJO MARTÍNEZ, O.S.A.  COPYRIGHT © 2000 PUBBLICAZIONI AGOSTINIANE ROME. USED WITH PERMISSION.  ORIGINAL ART PRESERVED IN THE OFFICE OF AUGUSTINIAN POSTULATOR OF CAUSES, ROME

Augustine of Coruña (died 1589) was an Augustinian missionary to Mexico and South America who defended the dignity and rights of the native people.

Born in the early sixteenth century in Coruña del Conde, Burgos, Spain, Augustine joined the Order of Saint Augustine as a young man.

He professed vows at Salamanca in 1524.  Saint Thomas of Villanova was the Prior (local superior) there, and the Servant of God Louis Montoya was his Novice Director. 

Augustine was ordained a Priest.  He and six other friars were in the first group of Augustinian missionaries sent to in 1533 proclaim Jesus Christ to the people of Mexico.  He spent several years preaching and ministering there.  During that time he wrote a summary of Christian teaching in the language of the native people.

After having been elected Vicar Provincial, Augustine joined with the Provincial Superiors of the Franciscans and Jesuits to compose a letter complaining about certain Bishops whom they accused of frustrating the work of evangelization in Mexico.

All three Provincial Superiors were called back to Spain.  Later, in 1562, Augustine was nominated as Bishop of Popayán, Colombia.  He initially declined this office, but his superiors finally convinced him to accept.  He was ordained Bishop in 1564.

When he arrived in his Diocese, Augustine found that the Church was in a very sorry state.  The Cathedral Church had fallen apart.  There were only 12 active priests, and many of these were living a lifestyle that was not faithful to their calling.

Even worse, he found that the native people were heavily taxed and cruelly treated.

Documents show that among Augustine's first actions as Bishop was a campaign to recruit more missionaries, not only Augustinians but also Franciscans and Jesuits.

Augustine strongly defended the rights and dignity of his people.  This caused conflict with civil authorities.  As a result he was imprisoned and twice exiled, once in Peru and once in Ecuador, for a total of almost 12 years.

When in exile in Cusco, Peru, he Baptized Tupac Amaru, the Inca leader who had ordered the execution of the Augustinian missionary James Ortiz.  Augustine was present at Tupac Amaru's death in 1572.

After many years of pastoral work, Augustine died peacefully in Popayán in 1589.

There was an earlier attempt to open the cause for Augustine's canonization, but it went nowhere.  His cause was officially opened in 1995.  The Diocesan investigation concluded in Popayán in 1999.  The Congregation of Saints recognized the validity of the case in 2000.  Josef Sciberras, O.S.A., the Augustinian Postulator of Causes, oversees the progress of the cause.