Ceferino Namuncurá was born on 26 August 1886 in Chimpay, on the banks of the Rio Negro. His father Manuel, the last great cacique (leader) of the Indigenous Araucan tribes, had surrendered three years earlier to the troops of the Argentine Republic. After eleven years of life in the open countryside, Manuel Namuncurá sent Ceferino to study in Buenos Aires, so that tomorrow he could defend his race. The family atmosphere in the Salesian college made him fall in love with Don Bosco.
The spiritual dimension grew in him and he began to desire to become a Salesian priest to evangelise his people. He chose Dominic Savio as a model, and during five years, through the extraordinary effort to enter a totally new culture, he himself became another Dominic Savio. His commitment to piety, charity, daily duties and ascetic exercise was exemplary.
This boy, who found it difficult to "get in line" or "obey the bell", gradually became a true model. As Don Bosco would have wanted, he was exact in fulfilling his duties of study and prayer. He was the referee at recreation: his word was acccpted by any schoolmates who were in disagreement. The care with which he made the sign of the cross, as if he were meditating on every word, impressed people; by his example he corrected his companions by teaching them to do it slowly and with devotion. In l903 (sixteen and a half years old, and his father was baptised at the age of eighty), Bishop Cagliero accepted him among the group of aspirants in Viedma, capital of the Apostolic Vicariate, to begin the study of Latin.
Because of his poor health, the Salesian bishop decided to take Ceferino to Italy so he could continue his studies in a more serious way and in a climate that seemed more suitable. In Italy he met Fr Rua and Pope Pius X, who blessed him with emotion. He attended school in Turin and later in the Salesian Villa Sora College in Frascati. He studied so hard to be the second of the class.
But an illness undiagnosed at the time, perhaps because he never complained, undid him: tuberculosis. On 28 March 1905 he was taken to the Fatebenefratelli hospital on the Tiber Island in Rome. Too late. He died peacefully on 11 May. Since 1924 his mortal remains have been in his homeland, at Fortín Mercedes, where crowds of pilgrims come to venerate him.
Declared Venerable 22 June 1972; beatified on 11 November 2007 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI