Canary Islands and Guatemala
Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt was born in Vilaflor, Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, in 1626.
He lived in a cave and worked as a shepherd until he was 23, when he made his way to Guatemala near Panama in Central America. When he eventually arrived he was poor and desperate and had to join the bread line that the Franciscans provided.
Wanting to become a priest, he enrolled in the Jesuit College of San Borgia, but he struggled with his studies and could not continue at school.
Pedro then became a Franciscan tertiary in Antigua in Guatemala, and took the name “Peter of Saint Joseph”. He visited hospitals and jails and looked after young people who could find no work. He opened a hospital for the convalescent poor, a shelter for the homeless, schools for the poor, an oratory, and a residence for priests. This led to the formation of new religious orders of men and women, la Orden de los Bethlemitas y de las Bethlemitas, subsequently recognized and approved by the Holy See.
St Pedro is considered the great evangelist of the West Indies, in the same way that St Francis Xavier is considered the great evangelist of the East Indies. He was a man ahead of his time, both in his methods for teaching reading and writing to the illiterate, and in the care of the sick and the poor.
St Pedro died in Antigua Guatemala at the age of 41 and was canonized by John Paul II in 2002.