Michael Francis Zavala
Augustinian Servant of God
Michael Francis Zavala (1867-1947) was an Augustinian Friar noted for his virtuous and holy life and for his caring pastoral ministry in Mexico.
Born in 1867 in Rancho Nuevo de Santa Clara, Puruándiro, Michoacán, Mexico, Michael was of Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian) heritage. His family was of modest means.
Michael entered the seminary as a young man for the Diocese of Morelia and continued his seminary studies in Yuriria, Guanajuato. He decided to join the Augustinian Order in 1888 and was ordained a Priest in 1894.
Following a short period of pastoral work in Sabino, a small town, he was given a series of leadership positions in his Augustinian Province. These included Vicar Provincial in Querétaro, Definitor in Morelia, and Director of Novices. He was elected Secretary of the Province for several consecutive terms.
During most of his life, Michael engaged in pastoral work in the farmlands of the El Bahío region. He ministered in Moroleón, Guanajuato (1908-1920), Yururia (1920-1932, during the difficult years of the Revolution, and again 1938-1947) and in Mexico City (1932-1938).
At the time of the Revolution, he was imprisoned for the crime of hearing sick people's confessions at a government hospital.
In his ministry, he reached out to all people: young and old, rich and poor, believers and unbelievers. He was responsible for the construction or refurbishing of many churches and chapels. He always seemed to be smiling. He gave special care to the needs of children and of the sick.
Partly because he was a short man and partly because his parishioners loved him, he was fondly called Padre Zavalita (Little Father Zavala). His simplicity of life and the intensity of his apostolic zeal were much appreciated and respected.
Michael died April 4, 1947 in Yuriria, where his remains are preserved.
The cause for his beatification and canonization began in 1995. The local investigation in Yururia and Morelia was concluded in 1997. The Congregation of Saints recognized the validity of his cause in 1999. Josef Sciberras, O.S.A., the Augustinian Postulator of Causes, oversees the progress of the cause.