Ceferino (sometimes spelt Zefferino or Zeffirino) Namuncurá was born on the 26th August 1886 at Chimpay, on the banks of the Rio Negro. His father, Manuel, last great leader of the Araucane Indian tribe, had surrendered three years earlier to troops from the Argentine Republic.
Manuel Namuncurá sent Ceferino, after he had wandered free on the pampas for eleven years, to study in Buenos Aires, so one day he could defend his own people better. The family spirit in the Salesian school brought him to love Don Bosco.
The spiritual dimension of life grew in him and he began to yearn to become a Salesian priest to evangelise his people. He chose Dominic Savio as a model, and over a period of five years, by his efforts to adapt to a totally new culture, he himself became another Dominic Savio. He was exemplary for his piety, charity, in his daily duty, and for his self-sacrifice.
This boy, who had found it so difficult to get in line or obey the bell, little by little became a true model. As Don Bosco would have wished, he was exact in his fulfilment of his duties of study and prayer. He was a referee at recreation: in any dispute his word was accepted. The care with which he made the Sign the Cross was striking, how he thought about each word; he encouraged his friends with this example teaching them to make it slowly and with devotion.
Voyage to Italy
In l903 (he was sixteen and a half years old) Bishop Cagliero accepted him as an aspirant at Viedma, the centre for the Vicariate Apostolic, to begin his Latin studies. Because of his poor health, the Salesian bishop decided to take him to Italy so he could follow up his studies seriously and in a more appropriate atmosphere. In Italy he met Don Rua and Pope Pius X, who warmly gave him his blessing.
He went to school in Turin and then to the Salesian College, Villa Sora, in Frascati. He studied so hard he was second in the class. But an illness not diagnosed in time, perhaps even because he did not complain about it, became life-threatening: tuberculosis.
On the 28th March 1905 he was taken to the Fatebenefratelli Hospital on the Tibertine island in Rome. But it was too late. He died peacefully on the 11th May. From 1924 onwards his mortal remains were laid to rest in his own village, at Fortin Mercedes, where crowds of pilgrims come to visit.
Ceferino was declared 'Blessed' by Pope Benedict XVI on 6th July 2007 and the Beatification ceremony took place in Chimpay, Argentina, his birthplace, on November 11th 2007. His memorial is kept each year on 26th August.