This gritty bishop fought for indigenous rights

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St. Turibius
National Museum of Fine Arts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Turibius of Mogrovejo

Feast day: March 23

Archbishop of Lima, Peru, St. Turibius of Mogrovejo is known for his work to better the lives of many poor indigenous people while at the same time reforming the clergy. Born in 1538 in Spain, St. Turibius was a layman who had studied law and taught as a professor of law in Salamanca, but someone also known for his prudence, integrity and holiness in working as chief judge of the Inquisition of Granada. As a result, St. Turibius was chosen to be a missionary archbishop for the Spanish colony in Peru. Despite his protests, he was ordained and consecrated a bishop two years later before arriving in Peru and finding colonialism at its worst.

“Time is not our own, and we must give a strict account of it,” was a favorite saying of St. Turibius. Hurriedly, he provided pastoral care and evangelized as many indigenous peoples in their own languages as he could. St. Turibius traversed the 18,000 square miles of his diocese three times, usually on foot and alone as he braved the elements and wild beasts, baptizing and confirming nearly half a million souls, including St. Rose of Lima and possibly St. Martin de Porres. Supporting the construction of roads, school houses, innumerable chapels and many hospitals and convents, St. Turibius also founded the first seminary in the New World in Lima. He also fought colonial exploitation and was determined to end abuses amongst the clergy.

Often going without a bed or food, St. Turibius frequently received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and celebrated Mass with intense fervor. In order not to offend the very poor members of his diocese, he worked alongside them. In answer to those concerned about the risks he took to travel through the underdeveloped lands of his diocese, he responded that Christ came from heaven to save man, and so we ought not to fear dangers for the sake of immortal glory. Everywhere he placed competent and zealous pastors in an effort to ensure that no one was without catechesis or the sacraments.

In reforming the clergy as well as unjust officials, St. Turibius faced opposition. When some tried to rationalize Sacred Scripture to approve their wayward lives, St. Turibius reminded them, in the words of the early Church father Tertullian, that Christ said “I am the truth,” not “I am the custom.” Striving to maintain discipline, St. Turibius appointed diocesan synods to be held every two years and provincial synods every seven. He was ever vigilant and severe in chastising the least scandal, especially of avarice, amongst the clergy.

St. Turibius often repeated the words of St. Paul, “I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better” (Phil 1:23). His countenance seemed often to shine with a divine light, and his efforts at concealing his works of piety proved his sincere humility. By his last will, he ordered that what he had on his person be distributed among his servants and whatever else he possessed be given to the poor.


Dear God, may I always be aware of the needs of the poorest of the poor and strive to correct abuse. May I make good use of my time and ever be aware that you are with me on the road to eternal life.


O God, who gave increase to your Church
through the apostolic labors and zeal for truth
of the Bishop Saint Turibius,
grant that the people consecrated to you
may always receive new growth in faith and holiness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Maryella Hierholzer

Maryella Hierholzer is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and did graduate work at Georgetown University. After concluding a career in the Washington area, she is now retired in Indiana where she is a teacher of adult and youth faith formation at her parish. She is also a volunteer at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne.