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Rich, yet saintly: Businessman recognized as living heroic virtue

Enrique Ernesto Shaw

Acdeano | Public Domain

Larry Peterson - published on 05/11/21

Enrique Shaw was a father and a business owner who wanted to "be Christ in the business world."

Enrique Ernesto Shaw was born February 26, 1921, in Paris, France. He was one of two children of Argentine parents, Alejandro Shaw and Sara Tornquist Altgelt. The family moved back to Argentina in 1923. Sadly, Sara passed away in 1925. Before she died, she made her husband promise that he would have the boy’s religious education entrusted to a Sacramentino priest. Enrique’s dad kept his promise.

Enrique was enrolled in the Colegio de La Salle in Buenos Aires. He was not only an outstanding student, but his deep religious faith stood out. He attended Mass every day and received Holy Communion.

Enrique desired to join the Naval Military School. His father objected, but Enrique persisted, and, at the age of 14, he began his training as a naval cadet. The training ground for his classes was the harsh sea of the South Atlantic. Here is where he trained as a naval officer and carried out apostolic work by continually giving powerful testimony of faith. He was among the top three in his class and became the youngest graduate of the school to graduate.

His “conversion”

An avid reader who had absorbed book after book from a very young age, Enrique never found the topic that absorbed his deepest interest. He had read books on politics, philosophy, history, and science to no avail. Finally, at the age of 16, he picked up a book on the Social Doctrine of the Church. He knew he had found the topic he had sought. He called this moment his “conversion.” 

Enrique and a few friends had gone  to Buenos Aires a few times when they were given leave. It was on one of these visits that he met Sara. They fell in love and were married October 23, 1943. They would go on to have nine children together, with one of them becoming a priest. Enrique taught them all the importance of the Rosary and made a point of taking them to church every week. He set a fine example as a Catholic father.

At the end of World War II, Enrique started his business. By 1952, he established the Christian Association of Business Executives. He did this with help from Archbishop Joseph Cardijn of Belgium, who would later become a Cardinal. Enrique also became a prolific writer, publishing many books dealing with justice and honor in the workplace. He promoted intense evangelizing aimed at the business class in Argentina and Latin America. His goal and calling was to be “Christ in the business world.”

Being a “boss” is not a privilege. It is a function, he would explain.

Enrique Shaw was one of the founders of the Christian Family Movement in Argentina and was president of the Argentine Catholic Action. He also established a pension fund, a health care plan, and financial aid in circumstances of illness and childbirth. 

Loved by the working class

In 1957 Enrique was diagnosed with cancer. His work activity was limited to speaking at conferences and writing. He was so admired by workers that in 1962, as he was nearing the end of his life, 260 workers showed up at the hospital to give blood for a life-saving transfusion for him. Enrique would say how happy he was that the blood of his workers flowed through his veins. He died on August 27, 1962, at just 41 years old. 

On April 24, 2021, Pope Francis declared Enrique Ernesto Shaw a man of “heroic virtue,” elevating him to the title of Venerable. The pope is already familiar with this holy man, having been the archbishop to oversee the diocesan stage of his process of beatification, in Buenos Aires.

In an interview in 2015, the pope said about him: “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.”

Enrique’s daughter, speaking with Aleteia about his recognition as venerable, says it filled her with peace. “Because since he died, I’ve though he was a saint. It’s not a surprise. And joy at how wonderful it is to know that his life will be recorded, everything he did, and it will be shared. He won’t be just for our family.”

“My dad didn’t do many extraordinary things,” she reflected. “He valued and loved his children a lot.”

Venerable Enrique Shaw, please pray for us.

SaintsSocial Doctrine of the Church
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