Biography of Blessed Fr. Pedro of St. Elijah (Heriz Aguiluz), O.C.D.

Fr. Pedro of St. Elijah (Pedro Heriz Aguiluz), was born on February 22, 1867, in Barujuén-Aramayona (Alava), Spain and was the son of Domingo and Clara.  He had a twin brother who later became know as Pascasio of the Virgin of Carmel and a third brother who was married.  His parents were farmers and religiously devout.  At a young age, he was sent to Alava to learn Castillian with other youngsters of Vasconia, who were given grammar lessons by the local priest.  

Before being called to fulfil his military obligation in 1889, young Pedro worked in the mines in Somorrostro.  Even as a young military man, Pedro pervaded an aura of simplicity, piety, and innocence that remained with him his whole life.  Upon fulfilling military service, his twin brother, Pascasio, was the first to enter the Carmelite Order and, in a letter addressed to Pedro, he said, "I have found the Order I was longing for; it is the Order of the Virgin of Carmel.  You too can come!" 

And he did.  at the age of twenty-two, Pedro was clothed on July 13, 1889, in the monastery of Larrea in Vizcaya; and one year later he made his first vows.  Sent to Burgos to study Philosophy and Theology, Pedro developed a severe respiratory ailment that prevented him from completing his studies.  His ailment did not prevent him from being ordained to the priesthood with his class on December 21, 1897.  He remained in Burgos to complete the courses he had missed and to allow time for his lungs to heal.

Fr. Pedro was assigned to Mexico after three years of being ordained priest and worked there for eleven years, mostly in Mexico City, Durango, Orizaba, Mazatlan, Colima and Guadalajara.  He led a very active life, yet he nourished his religious life with prayers, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.  He was often sought for spiritual direction and confessions, especially by priests and those who were discerning religious life.  In the pulpit, he fostered simplicity by his short but profound preaching that was well received by the public.  His optimism and youthful energy attracted many.  Although Fr. Pedro did not possess many visible "talents" nor was he the intellectual type, his life was one of practicality marked with simplicity and service.

In 1905, Fr. Pedro, under the direction of Fr. Lucas of St. Joseph, arrived in Los Angeles, California, with hopes of extending the Province by establishing a novitiate in the United States.  He was well received by the bishop who offered an old Franciscan mission with the condition that it be staffed with English-speaking priests.  Unfortunately no priest was immediately available, and the bishop eventually turned it over the Fathers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Political pressures in Mexico signaled the Carmelites to try again.  And in 1911, Fr. Pedro arrived in Arizona.  The only person he knew in Tucson was Fr. Virgilio Genevieve whom he had known in Mazatlan.  Fr. Virgilio explained to Bishop Granjon how well the Carmelites had taken care of him when he had developed a serious illness in Mexico and how diligently Fr. Pedro attended to him.  Convinced of his good intentions, the bishop had his vicar general, Fr. Peter Zimmermann, extend an invitation to preach at the Cathedral of St. Augustine.  Impressed by his simplicity, youthfulness, and profound religious spirit, Bishop Granjon offered him a small church in the mining town of Winkleman in 1912.

The building structure was so poor and the early of ministry so humble it reminded many of the simple beginnings of the Discalced Carmelites friars in times of St. John of the Cross.  So, Winkleman earned the nickname the "Duruelo" of the United States after the first house of Carmelite friars in the village of El Duruelo in sixteenth century Spain.  Witnesses say Fr. Pedro led the life of an apostle and of a saint, even-tempered and edifying with great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In April of 1930, he returned to Catalonia in Spain after he was elected as provincial definitor and novice master.  Even after returning from Arizona, Fr. Pedro maintained that same even-tempered spirit he carried as a missionary in the Americas, integrating well into the rhythm of monastic observance as a novice master of the young friars and as confessor to the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tarragona.  With a boundless love for the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Fr. Pedro made sure to pass it on to his novices and to the people who sought his spiritual direction.  

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