History of Odorico D Andrea
One of the most visited places in Nicaragua by religious pilgrims, among several sites of faith in the country, is the center integrated by the temple, the crypt and the museum of the Franciscan friar Odorico D’Andrea. The place is a sanctuary were tens of thousand of people met together during the same day. Some people come here because of the faith, others come out of curiosity, and others come looking for a mystical encounter in the place were the incorrupted body of “the peace friar” laid.
Odorico, the people make him Holy
The San Rafael del Norte area experienced extraordinary changes for 36 years, from 1954 to 1990, thanks to a single man and his exceptional charisma. San Rafael is a village located to the North of the mountainous Jinotega, in Northern Nicaragua.
Drinking water, schools, churchs, hospital, roads, bridges… in other words, almost every infrastructural work during this time was linked to Odorico, an Italian friar sent to this place by the Franciscan Order. He still “is” the most beloved person in town, according to friar Damian Muratori, director of the local Tepeyak Retrat Center. Muratori has just launch a book describing several details about the life and activity of the most dynamic of his subaltern in this Franciscan province. Friar Damian said Odorico is still living and acting among the people in this community and beyond.
Although this place was the marriage site for famous Nicaraguan Sandino and Blanca Arauz (his wife); althought this place was an iconic point of battle during the Sandino’s war (1920’s), the anti-Somoza guerilla activity (1960’s and 1970’s) and the anti-Revolutionary guerrilla (1980’s), it is Odorico D’Andrea’s temple and crypt that attract the most local and international tourists to this town.
Odorico offered his life for peace
Currently, it is possible to find testimonies about miracle through the intercession of Odorico, when he was alive. And, after his death, many other miracle attributed to his intercession are frequently recorded. “He’s really still alive and active”, said friar Damian.
One of the most remembered events is the 1988 mass in La Naranja community, which was part of the war zone at that time. Odorico suffered because of war. When he heard artillery, he used to say “How many of my peasants could be suffering or dying right now”. He was never tired of praying for the end of the 1980 war, which was the bloodiest war in Nicaragua history.
The hill from were shot and missiles were launched is now the Divine Mercy Temple, an opened field with a chapel where open air mass are held and people visit to thanks God for Orodico.
Friar Odorico anticipated the politician, who were seeking a peace agreement in Central America to disarm rebel in the 1980’s Nicaragua. Odorico talked with the chief of both enemy forces in the area, and coordinated an open air mass for all. Soldiers of one side were at his right, and the soldier of the other side were at his left. During the mass at the sigh of peace, it was an unexpected and emotional hug between war enemies.
Odorico literaly disarmed those hearts full of anger among war activity. It is still remembered one of his phrases during that mass: “Everything is destroyed by war, everything is saved by peace. War is death, but peace is everyone welfare”. Odorico did not take away any weapon from these soldiers, but he remarked that a time when deadly weapon will be part of museums was coming to Nicaragua.
In his youth, Odorico accepted coming to Nicaragua even if he ignored details about the country. He does not suspected that he will arrive to a place like San Rafael del Norte. During his first years of mission, which begun on February 20, 1954, he learned to drink coffee instead of wine; he learned to live among tropical forest, instead of the urban Europe; he learned to live among people in extreme poverty. It was a deep learning process that lead him to be a key factor of local development.
This friar knew how to mix work of engineering with humble yet deep preaching. He touched the heart of many people, transforming San Rafael del Norte on the margins of the governments in power. Once, president Somoza Garcia give him five hundred cordobas (Nicaraguan money), and president Rene Shick give him zinc sheets. But Odorico touched the heart of rich and poor people, Nicaraguans and foreigners. He promoted the hospital construction (1964), the drinking water infrastructure (1965), the construction of rural bridges, among other local development works. He sponsored the education of many children, and organized agricultural cooperatives.
Odorico transformed in temple the poor hermitage in San Rafael del Norte and La Concordia towns; he bring a beatiful bell tower and paintings. He also built the Tepeyac Retreat Center, were his incorrupted body rest.
The financial sources were diverse, including foreigners sponsors from Europe and the United States, international development programs and crowdfunding by rural communities.
Sometimes he started a project without any resources, and when his collaborators asked how they could achieve such project, he replied “Divine Providence provide”, an expression of faith that transformed the mountains here.
A touching charisma
Odorico died in Matagalpa due to a heart attack. That day, in his family house in Italy, something strange occurred: the people in house suddenly saw a human silhouette sit in the dinning table, similar to Odorico. They thought it was time to phone call Odorico, and it was the precis moment when his passed away.
Thirty years after his death, many people still get excited and some even cry when they hear his name, or remember his countless anecdote. It is quite difficult to find someone who has a bad impression about Odorico. And it is easy to find people who call him a Saint, even though his Vatican’s status is for now “Servant of God”.
According to witnesses, Orodico is responsible (as intercessor) for the life protection of many people, and the healing of people with terrible diseases. Witnesses also say he was clairvoyant (he was called the diviner) and prophet. Some other witnesses said he performed bilocations (being in two place at the same time), and he was saw praying in state of ecstasy while experiencing levitation (his body rising above the floor).
Odorico also promoted the absolute confidence on the divine providence while facing financial restrictions. He also promoted the new habit of praising God while greeting. His follower still say “Praise God!” instead of “Hello!”, and the answer from the interlocutor is “So bi it!”. It is possible to talk about a San Rafael del Norte before and after Odorico.
Before his death, while being in a delicate health condition, he confessed to his closed friends: “I offered my life to the Lord for the peace in Nicaragua. Peace is now a reality and there will be no longer war”. Days after that hi passed away. Witnesses of this confession said that he was just offering testimony of a real fact, as the year he die was also registered the political changes that ended the war in Nicaragua.
Odorico visited in Italy the mystic Franciscan friar Pio de Pieltrecina before coming to Nicaragua for the first time. And Pieltrecina told him: “Odorico, become a saint”. Half a century before, the process has started. Since 2002, twelve years after his death, a formal investigation has started to be declare as a saint by the Vatican; a saint as he is now considered by the humble people in San Rafael del Norte.
As part of this process, his body had been exhumed in 2008. Odorico’s body remain intact, incorrupt; photographs and videos evidenced that. A doctor, who call himself atheist, witnessed the exhumation as a technical witness. He knelt down before this extraordinary event, as he considered he was witnessing something sacred.
People from the countryside, from the cities and from abroad put water bottles next to Odorico’s sarcophagus, and then they bring the bottles home confident that they have now holy water. There are countless miracles cases that are now serving as evidence during the canonization process promoted from Jinotega by bishop Monsignor Enrique Herrera, supported by Italian Franciscan frier Damian Muratori, who is a direct witness of Odorico’s special nature.
First religious tourism offer
Due to his incidence in community development, his love for Nature and his commitment for peace, Odorico D’Andrea was selected as the first attraction of a wide program aiming to develop experientian pilgrimage. The program name is “Huellas” (trace, or footprints).
Huellas tour to San Rafael del Norte includes Eucharists, spiritual retreat, links with local communities, hiking in the places where Odorico was, and a deep approach to what happens and still is going on there, thanks to the presence of the friar. It is like going to meet the living footprints of the friar of Peace.
The program will later propose other sanctuaries and other great figures of the church in Nicaragua. The program started in March 2020 with a three day pilgrimage tour. This three day experience are different from regular one day tours offered so far in the country, because of mystical experience that the new offer can provide. In 2020 March was celebrated the 104th birthday and the 30th memorial anniversary of Odorico D’Andrea.
The program is developed by ViaNica.com, hotel Casita San Payo and the Franciscan mission in San Rafael del Norte. The program focused on religious experiential pilgrimage and deep contemplation, that will bring tourists to Odorico’s footprints.
Tourists participating in "Huellas de Odorico D’Andrea" pilgrimage will know several anecdote with humble and powerful local people. There are several offers and some events are being organized.
Author and information sources
The special theme about Odorico D’Andrea was produced in March 2020 by Nicaraguan journalist Roger H. Solorzano Gaitan, founding partner of ViaNica.com.
- Interview to friar Damian Muratori, Centro Tepeyac director.
The pictures are courtesy of friar Muratori and the Franciscan order office in San Rafael del Norte.