Although he died in 1853, the legacy of Friar Andrés Garcia Acosta is as alive as ever in Santiago, Chile, through a soup kitchen bearing his name that feeds 150 people per day.
This outreach is part of the “Spoon Trail,” a Franciscan ministry where those in need can stop at different locations to receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Following the friar's example, dozens of volunteers at “Friar Andresito's Soup Kitchen” help feed the poor and homeless, including those facing addictions and prostitution.
For volunteers, the work is more than just an act of charity.
“This has meant everything to me,” volunteer Magdalena Urquhart told the postulator of the friar’s cause.
She said working with the poor has changed the way she viewed them. “Although in the beginning one has a certain amount of fear because there are a lot of alcoholics, a lot of drug addictions, they're people who need a lot of love, for someone to listen to them.”
Rogelio Caroca, who has volunteered for seven years, considers Friar Andresito to be his friend and admires him because of his witness as “a simple man who generously practiced charity across the board.”
Andrés Garcia Acosta, known as Friar Andresito, was born in the Canary Islands on Jan. 10, 1800. He became acquainted with the Franciscan Order during his childhood and youth.
In 1832, he embarked for the Americas, in one of the great waves of migration from the island caused by famines, lack of employment, and droughts.
He arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, and in 1834, he entered the Franciscan Order. In 1838 the government expelled the Franciscans from the country, and he traveled to Chile when he learned that the Franciscans of the Strict Observance had been reestablished there.
Friar Andresito was assigned to the Franciscan Church of the Strict Observance from 1839 to 1853. He served as almoner and helped out in the kitchen. As almoner he got to know the physical and spiritual needs of both the wealthy and the poor.
Friar Andresito was beloved and renowned by the people of his time. Besides being almoner, he visited jails and hospitals, attended to the sick and gave spiritual advice. He was known for his humility, dedication and joy.
On Sundays, he would distribute fruit and bread to the poor, an activity that today inspires “Friar Andresito's Soup Kitchen.”
On Jan. 9, 1853, Friar Andresito came down with pneumonia. He died Jan. 14 and hundreds of people came to pay their respects.
On July 10, 1855, the friar’s remains were exhumed, and his body was found incorrupt.
In 1927, the “Friar Andrés Brotherhood” was founded and spread throughout Chile. In 1977, the “Friends of Friar Andresito” society was established, with devotees in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and the United States.
Pope Francis recognized Friar Andresito's heroic virtues June 8, 2016 and he was declared venerable.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.