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Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embraced the poor


Gonzalo Bell | Shutterstock

Esteban Pittaro - published on 09/16/21

After a near-death experience, Natty Hollmann de Petrosino dedicated the rest of her life to serving the poor.

In her early 20s, Natty Hollmann de Petrosino had no need to beg. Not only was she a model and actress, but she’d formed a family that lived comfortably in Bahía Blanca, a coastal town in Argentina.

However, everything changed after she almost died during ear surgery due to cancer at age 27. She made a sharp turn in her life and embraced her “heavenly family” down the street.

She remained known for charitable work in Argentina for more than 50 years, until she passed away on July 26, 2021, at the age of 81, after a battle with COVID-19. Many consider her an Argentine “Mother Teresa.”

Natty Petrosino was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. She was recognized by the Public University of Navarre, Spain, with the Jaime Brunet International Award for the Promotion of Human Rights in 2012. In her hometown, she was given the title of “Illustrious citizen of the City of Bahía Blanca.”

But none of this acclaim took away her focus on serving the poor, not even the 2013 invitation of Pope Francis to travel to Rome—an invitation she declined (although she was grateful) in order to remain at the side of the poor of her country.

After that “revelation” at the age of 27, when she felt her calling, she totally shifted the focus of her life. In 1978, she set up the St. Francis of Assisi Pilgrims’ Home, a place to care for the vulnerable with illnesses or disabilities, which fed thousands of people a day.

However, 30 years ago she left the space in the hands of the diocese, so she could go wherever the poor would call her. One of those calls to serve others led her to the Wichis native communities of northern Argentina.

Since then, she would periodically go to live with them and serve them. Not even the pandemic stopped her, to the point that in 2020 she was prosecuted for violating travel restrictions.

On that trip, which she was able to make after eight months of quarantine, she helped a mother deliver her baby. The baby was breech (positioned for birth feet-first). In those precarious conditions, such a delivery would have been very complicated, but the child turned around at the last minute.

“Thank you, Jesus,” was the first thing Natty said when she told Infobae about the event. She used to thank God for everything—and ask Him for everything, too.

She spoke without any qualms of God inspiring her. When she was nominated for the Nobel Prize, she declared,

The news makes me feel good as an Argentinean. The fact that I am being nominated at a time when values are in decline … It seems to me that God wants to speak to the world.

And although she never refused to talk about her inspiration in the Gospel, she used to say she preferred to act rather than quote the Bible, interpreting Jesus with her deeds.

In addition to the Wichis, she was known for her commitment to the needy communities of Mapuches in Patagonia, Huarpes in the desert in the Province of Mendoza, and others in Tucumán and Formosa.

The death of the Argentinean Mother Teresa leaves thousands of orphans. She led a full life, but above all, a life given for others.

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