Enrique Shaw: the Argentine businessman whom Pope Francis may soon beatify
Pope Francis’ desire to see the late Argentine businessman Enrique Shaw raised to the altars could be close to fruition, according to the postulator of Shaw’s cause for beatification.
Juan Navarro Floria told CNA the diocesan phase of the cause has been completed.
“This process began when Pope Francis was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in that capacity he was the one who asked Rome to open the process,” he related.
The diocesan process was closed in 2013 under Archbishop Mario Poli, and everything was passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which this year declared the juridical validity of that phase of the process.
In an interview conducted in March with the Mexican TV station Televisa, Pope Francis said, “I’ve known rich people and I’m moving forward with the cause for beatification over there [in Argentina] of a rich Argentine businessman. Enrique Shaw was rich, yet saintly. A person can have money. God gives it to him so he can administer it well. And this man administered it well. Not with paternalism, but by fostering the [personal] growth of people who needed help.”
Shaw’s cause for beatification is now following its course in Rome, with the postulator Silvia Correale. Correale is working with the rapporteur to draft a positio, which in addition to the testimonies of witnesses, includes the main aspects of Shaw’s life, virtues, and writings.
Shaw was born in 1921, and joined the navy while still young. He started his business after the Second World War, and founded in 1952 the Christian Association of Business Executives. He also was among the founders of the Catholic University of Argentina and the Christian Familiar Movement, and served as president of the Argentine Catholic Action.
In 1955, he was a victim of the anti-Catholic waves that took place in the first phase of Juan Peron’s administration. According to Navarro Floria, the postulator of the cause of beatification, even after his arrest he proved altruistic, giving other inmates the mattresses his family brought to him, as well as food.
Shaw established a pension fund and a health care system to provide the 3,400 industry’s workers medical service, financial support in case of illness, and loans for important life events such as marriage, birth, and death.
In 1961, the industry led by Shaw was sold to an American trust fund which decided to fire 1,200 people. Shaw was already suffering an advanced cancer that was to lead to his death the following year, but he strongly opposed the layoffs and proposed a recovery plan that was to retain all the workers.
Sara Shaw, one of Enrique’s daughters, told CNA that what she remembers most about her father was “how he enjoyed coming home. He would come in whistling. We kids would come running, and the whole atmosphere changed because it was like a party when he came home from work … he really enjoyed his family.”
“He would have problems but he never unloaded them on us, not in the way he looked or what he said. Certainly he would talk with my mother, but we kids always saw him looking happy,” she added.
Sara added that several people have commented to her that many times her father did not accept dinner invitations from friends. He used to say he had a very important prior commitment. “And it seems the most important commitment was to come home in the evening to have dinner with his children,” she emphasized.
One of the family’s devotional practices was praying the Rosary. “He taught each one of us how to lead a decade, taking turns, and he used to tell us to mention our petitions out loud … and we used to walk to church on Sundays to get to Mass early.”
“After Communion he gave us all a hug and had us pray the Anima Christi … that was very beautiful and a many people remember how he had us recite this prayer in thanksgiving after Communion.”
Commenting on the Christian life their father led in the business world, Shaw’s daughter recalled that he had a lot of contact with his co-workers, including those from his navy years. “They remembered him very well. What struck them was that even though he was so quiet, he stood out by the way he acted, and by his faith.”
Fernán de Elizalde, himself a businessman and member of the Christian Association of Business Executives, is also vice postulator of Shaw’s cause for beatification.
He told CNA he is “convinced Shaw was a man of outstanding holiness. We’ll probably have in the future the first businessman saint in the world.”
“I’m a businessman like he was, and I wanted to take on this role of vice postulator to the extent that I could, to prove that this man had organized a business really in keeping with the social teaching of the Church … and it took me about two years to establish that, but once I discovered it in depth, by visiting many of the businesses where he worked, where he was a stockholder, where he was the director or a board member, I found a wonder of a person.”
de Elizalde recalled a moving anecdote about Shaw that reflects the affection he had for his workers, and vice versa. “During his last days he received a blood transfusion donated by the workers from his main factory. People at that hospital were wondering who had been admitted there because they couldn’t believe there were so many workers standing at the door, getting in line to donate blood – all the more so for an employer. They thought he must be a union member, but they never thought he was their employer.”
“One of Enrique’s last words as he was dying, was that he was happy that at this moment the blood of his workers was coursing through his veins.”