Servant of God: Enrique Ernesto Shaw
26 February, 1921 – 27 August, 1962
In December 1958 Enrique was nominated as a Knight considering him “a person truly worthy and deserving of the high honour to which he aspires, reason for which I am grateful to encourage the favourable reception of this request”. His disploma of admission was issued by the Grand Master, H.E. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant on 17 July, 1962.
Oh, my God, Enrique is our example of Christian life through his daily work in family, work, business and society. Help me to follow in his footsteps with a deep life of union with you and the Christian apostolate. Dignify glorify him and grant me by his intercession the favor I ask you ... For Jesus Christ Our Lord. Love.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory).
Ernesto a layman was born to an Argentine family. The Holy Father authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the Decrees of Heroic Virtues on 24 April 2021.
He was born in France as one of two children of Argentine parents, Alejandro Shaw and Sara Tornquist Altgelt; he was of both German and Scottish descent. The Shaws moved back to Argentina in 1923. Sara died in 1925. At the age of four his Catholic mother died and his agnostic father left him to be cared for by his maternal aunts . From 1931 to 1935 he was a student at De la Salle College, where he received an excellent religious formation while at the same time achieving excellent scholastic results.
In January 2, 1936, at the age of fifteen, he started his studies at the Naval Military School, where he performed a short and outstanding career, characterized by his strong sense of duty and service. He graduated as the youngest naval officer in Argentine naval history..
As a navy officer he was sent in 1945 to the United States to study meteorology. He was tempted to be a blue-collar worker, but he came to understand that he should devote himself to the evangelization of the business community.
Enrique prepares himself for this big change. He returned to Argentina. He had different positions of high responsibility in Rigolleau Glassworks (Corning Glass, manufacturers of Pyrex). He remained in Rigolleau S.A. until his death.
Upon his return to Buenos Aires, he faced the restrictions on individual freedom and the private initiative imposed by the newly constituted regime of President Perón, and the pressures of workers unionism arising from it.
On December 3, 1952, ACDE, The Argentine Christian Association of Business Leaders was established. Enrique Shaw was its founder and first president. ACDE joined the U.N.I.A.P.A.C. (International Christian Entrepreneurs Union) internationally.
The concrete result of his concern about improving the status of workers is the development of a bill to create a Compensating Family Allocation Fund for employees and industry workers. The project, developed by Enrique Shaw through ACDE was enacted in July 1957 as Decree Law No. 7.914.
He participated in the founding of the Universidad Católica Argentina, and joined the first Board of Directors as Treasurer.
Enrique worked with several important leaders of the European social democracy of the post-war period, such as Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi. He promoted in Argentina and South America advanced labor laws.
His status as leader of the business union in Argentina led him to publish several works that reveal how much interior reflection Shaw had dedicated to his status as a Christian entrepreneur. For this purpose he wrote “The Mission of Business Leaders” (Bs. As., 1960).
“More than ever in today’s times, and despite the difficulties, it is a duty to business leaders, as intellectuals leaders, to provide a message and the light of faith to the development of spirits, to strive to support, in the light of the social Christian principles, the search for solutions adapted to the ever-moving realities.”
In 1955, he was a victim of the anti-Catholic waves that took place in the first phase of Juan Peron's administration. According to Navarro Floria, the postulator of the cause of beatification, even after his arrest he proved altruistic, giving other inmates the mattresses his family brought to him, as well as food.
Shaw established a pension fund and a health care system to provide the 3,400 industry’s workers medical service, financial support in case of illness, and loans for important life events such as marriage, birth, and death.
In 1961, the industry led by Shaw was sold to an American trust fund which decided to fire 1,200 people. Shaw was already suffering an advanced cancer that was to lead to his death the following year, but he strongly opposed the layoffs and proposed a recovery plan that was to retain all the workers.
Sara Shaw, one of Enrique's daughters, told CNA that what she remembers most about her father was “how he enjoyed coming home. He would come in whistling. We kids would come running, and the whole atmosphere changed because it was like a party when he came home from work … he really enjoyed his family.”
“He would have problems but he never unloaded them on us, not in the way he looked or what he said. Certainly he would talk with my mother, but we kids always saw him looking happy,” she added.
Sara added that several people have commented to her that many times her father did not accept dinner invitations from friends. He used to say he had a very important prior commitment. “And it seems the most important commitment was to come home in the evening to have dinner with his children,” she emphasized.
One of the family’s devotional practices was praying the Rosary. “He taught each one of us how to lead a decade, taking turns, and he used to tell us to mention our petitions out loud … and we used to walk to church on Sundays to get to Mass early.”
“After Communion he gave us all a hug and had us pray the Anima Christi … that was very beautiful and a many people remember how he had us recite this prayer in thanksgiving after Communion.”
Commenting on the Christian life their father led in the business world, Shaw’s daughter recalled that he had a lot of contact with his co-workers, including those from his navy years. “They remembered him very well. What struck them was that even though he was so quiet, he stood out by the way he acted, and by his faith.”
Fernán de Elizalde, himself a businessman and member of the Christian Association of Business Executives, is also vice postulator of Shaw's cause for beatification.
He told CNA he is "convinced Shaw was a man of outstanding holiness. We’ll probably have in the future the first businessman saint in the world."
“I’m a businessman like he was, and I wanted to take on this role of vice postulator to the extent that I could, to prove that this man had organized a business really in keeping with the social teaching of the Church … and it took me about two years to establish that, but once I discovered it in depth, by visiting many of the businesses where he worked, where he was a stockholder, where he was the director or a board member, I found a wonder of a person.”
de Elizalde recalled a moving anecdote about Shaw that reflects the affection he had for his workers, and vice versa. “During his last days he received a blood transfusion donated by the workers from his main factory. People at that hospital were wondering who had been admitted there because they couldn’t believe there were so many workers standing at the door, getting in line to donate blood – all the more so for an employer. They thought he must be a union member, but they never thought he was their employer.”
“One of Enrique’s last words as he was dying, was that he was happy that at this moment the blood of his workers was coursing through his veins.”
On October 23, 1943, he married Cecilia Bunge, and they had nine children. in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She died on 21 May 2007, in her hometown, at the age of 86.