MISSIONARIES TO THE END
This group is made up of Claretians from different communities: Barcelona, Castro Urdiales, Cervera, Lérida, Sabadell, Valencia, Vic and Sallent. All died heroically because of their faith, because they were religious. There were 49 priests, 31 brothers and 29 students. They died with a average age of 39, in different places:
- 60 from Cervera.
- 15 from Vic.
- 11 from Lérida.
- 8 from Barcelona.
- 8 from Sabadell.
- 4 from Valencia.
- 3 from Castro Urdiales.
In the city of Barcelona, the Claretian Missionaries had two communities in 1936. One was the Provincial Curia with a public school and Church. On July 19th 1936, this community was made up of 58 members. The second community was located on Ripoll Street. Its focus was dedicated to the apostolate of the press, the Coculsa editorial, and preaching.
Acceptance of the Martyrdom
On the morning of July 19th, 1936, the faithful, who went to the 9 am Mass, spoke with the missionaries and found all of them hopeful and ready to shed their blood for Christ. Once the members of the community were dispersed, each managed as well as he could. Twelve members of the community were shot between the 25th July and the 28th August.
Dispersion of the community of Ripoll
On the afternoon of July 20th, 1936, the doorman of the building warned them that according to information, their stay in the house was already dangerous. On July 21st, the community disbanded and each of its members sought refuge where they could.
The militia arrived and made a record of those they could find, or made a list with photos of all the individuals and the addresses of the houses in which they had stayed. The same happened when they imprisoned the Superior, who had in his possession the list of the shelter for each one. With this information, when they recorded the missionaries’ whereabouts, they couldn’t be deceived with false explanations. For this reason, the missionaries were captured.
The Claretian Missionaries of these two communities of Barcelona, who were killed as martyrs, numbered twenty. But they were unable to open the Canonical Process for all of them because on the last days, the majority of them were either unaccounted for or their place of burial was unknown.
On July 18th, after the first murder in Castro Urdiales, the Claretian’s sensed a bad omen. The priests understood the danger and on the 19th, the Claretians decided to move to another place. The Claretians decided that each would go his own way to where he would feel safe. That same day, two went to Bilbao, the rest went to various houses.
The Claretians who went to Bilbao took refuge in modest pensions; the seven who took refuge in the private homes of Castro Urdiales, were discovered and arrested. They disappeared, so we believe they were killed. In the house six remained, with the hope of not losing control of the school when the others left. These had to suffer the demands, blasphemies and brutalities of the Reds. In the early days, militia men and women burned the courtyard.
Fathers Gelada and Carrascal and Brother Barrio hid in an asylum run by nuns and were arrested on October 13th, 1936, in the morning, by a troop of militia. Next day they were executed.
On July 21st, 1936, the community consisted of 116 religious, distributed as follows: 30 Priests, 51 students and 35 Brothers. In addition, there were 63 pre-postulants, who would be distributed between their families. Of the 116 religious, 67 were martyred.
Dispersion of the community
On July 21st, 1936, the President, Mr. Companuys authorized the seizure of religious buildings and on the same day, in the morning, the community building was surrounded by armed militia. Father Superior gave orders not to approach the windows thus avoiding any possible misunderstanding. That same day, at four in the afternoon, the Mayor of Cervera telephoned the Superior with the order to leave the building within one hour. This order was meant to hinder the faction of the City Council from carrying out its intention to murder the religious.
The missionaries had to change their habits for regular clothes and present themselves before the gate of the orchard, as Father Giron decided to leave this way rather than by the main door, to avoid more publicity. Before leaving they were searched carefully to see if they were carrying guns.
It was at the end of the search when one of the communists cried: «Everyone in a row and against the wall». A sense of panic ran through the everyone’s bodies. Why would they place us in a row and in front of the wall to look for weapons? So many judging with words coming out freely.
The revolutionaries asked Father Superior where the community would go. He answered, to Solsona and, if it was not possible, the place closest to the French border.
At the door there were transfer buses waiting. Those boarding the bus were; 15 Priests, 44 Students, 25 Brothers and 63 Postulants. There were 21 who stayed in Cervera hosted in private homes. In the hospital there were also the sick and elderly. In Mas Claret there were another 11, who were captured by the militia.
The bus began moving towards Solsona, according to Father Superior who believed it was a safe place. Yet there was a sense of uneasiness. On the outskirts, the bus came upon the cemetery. At a signal from the guide car, the procession stopped.
After some reflection, they were sent to San Ramón, Convent of the Mercedarios, who sent them. The next day, July 22nd, there was some peace and the Postulants were taken to their homes and the students José Loncán and Evaristo Bueria were taken to the hospital.
In the morning of the 23rd, they were able to celebrate Mass. Soon the situation changed, as the word spread that the communists from a nearby village were coming to set fire to the convent. The Claretian Missionaries had to leave the convent and in groups of three they went to the estate of Mas Claret.
At eight in the morning of the 24th; at Mas Claret a group of Communists arrived apparently to record everything, but in reality, to requisition and take everything from the misionaries. All was seized and they were forbidden to use their property, even the food. An attempt was made by the foreign students to contact the Consulates of their country. The rest were divided into two groups.
The first group consisted of 15 religious, 14 students and one priest, Fr. Jové, who where the first martyrs of the Cervera community. They were killed in the afternoon on the 26th July.
The second group was led by Father José Mir in the direction of Bellvis. They hoped to find refuge as the storm of persecution passed by. The second group achieved their objective.
A third group, made up, among others, of some with poor health, stayed in Mas Claret. On the 1st August some armed individuals arrived with threats and menaces. They took Frs. Juan Agustí and Felipe Calvo and led them before the authorities. Brother Esteban Mestres escaped from them, but he was assassinated later in Barcelona. In this atmosphere, they spent those weeks up to the 19 October 1936. This day they were grouped in fours between ropes and rifles. Among the 18 missionaries shot, there were three priests, nine brothers and six students.
The Martyrs at the Hospital
The elderly and the sick of the community of Cervera went to the hospital accompanied by Fathers Jaume Girón and Pere Sitges. They numbered fourteen. All of them were killed during the month of September and October of 1936.
Brother Ferrán Saperas Aluja
When the community of Cervera was dispersed, Brother Ferrán sought refuge in the town of Montpalau. Not being the most appropriate place, he went to the farmhouse of his friend Bofarull, but was detained. There, he declared that he was a religious and began his Calvary. In Cervera, they took him to some brothels, forced him to consent to the most vulgar and vile proposals. Brother Saperas always responded: “I am a virgin, and a virgin I will die!”. In the end, on the road to the cemetery, as they were going to kill him, he said to them: “I forgive you! I forgive you! I forgive you!”.
When the house and church of St. Paul was plundered, the eleven missionaries of the community of Lérida took refuge in a family home. There they were arrested, six were taken to the prison. Fr. Joan Busquets was left in the house and the superior, Fr. Frederic Codina, was presented before the Revolutionary Comitee to be returned also to the prison. While he was walking there, guarded by a squad of militia, in the Paheria plaza, they discharged their rifles into him. It was the 21st July.
The priests Agustí Lloses, Artur Tamarit, Manuel Torres, Miquel Baixeras, Lluís Albi and Xavier Morell, with the Brothers Joan Garriga and Ángel Dolcet, interned in the macrojail of Lérida were expecting to die from one day to the next. The first to die were Tamarit, Torres and Baixeras. It was 25th July. On the 21st August the Claretians Lloses, Albi, Morell, Garriga and Dolcet would be martyred. Fr. Xavier Surribas, from the community of La Selva del Campo was also martyred in Lérida, in the train station.
In this community there were eleven missionaries; only eight of them would come to be added to the list of martyrs. Josep Reixach was the first. He died on the 25th July. The last one was killed on the 17th March 1937.
With the Revolution, each member was already prepared to find refuge and if need be to take a brother along. Some like Mr Tana, had gone to the convent to offer his home to the missionaries as a refuge. This is what happened with the expulsion of the community on July 19th of 1936.
The first to leave that day was Fr. Torrents. Since he was almost blind, he sought refuge outside of Sabadell with some of his relatives. The others left the house in the evening so as to go unnoticed. The house and the church were looted and burned on July 21st.
Father Reixach was shot on July 25th. This all took place in the middle of the Street and he was buried in a common grave of Sabadell. The others six members of the community, except Fr. Torrent, were captured on August 4th. All of these were arrested in the homes where they sought refuge, and jailed. They were killed on 5th September of 1936.
Father Juan Torrents was the last to die. He was discovered at the Fonda where he was hiding; neither his 73 years, nor his blindness could save him from going to the frightening jail of San Elías, until March 17th when they took him out to go to the Montcada cemetery.
By mid-1936, only the Valencia residence was open because they were forced to close the others, because of political and social circumstances. Valencia was also the backdrop for martyrdom, with the death of four priests.
The first martyr was Father Luis Francés, who accepted the invitation to go to a small town. It looked like a corner of paradise, until the militiamen from the Capital showed up in the place, on August 20th, looking for a Father from the neighborhood who had gone to Barcelona, but they found Father Francés. He was taken prisoner, and after a few hours, with a strong “Live Christ the King!” on his lips, he fell under the bullets
The others three martyrs
Towards 10 in the morning of the August 12th, Fathers Alonso and Gordon went to the Electra Valenciana to talk to their good friend, Don Paco Comas. They needed to find a safer place than the inn where they had spent the night. The presence of the Fathers made the employees suspicious; they notified the Committee by telephone, and immediately representatives and militia were sent, who arrested the three in the office and brought them before the Committee.
They made a slight statement and, as you could see from their ID that the two were teachers and single and had the same address, they deduced that they were priests and religious and locked them up there, while they let Don Paco free. Immediately other militia moved to the house to look for those who were there. There was only Fr Galipienzo, and he was imprisoned also. They died between the last days of August and the first of September.
VIC AND SALLENT
Dispersion of the community of Vic
On July 13rd, 1936, a member of the opposition was murdered by public order of the Leftist party. This action gave most of the people the impression that the revolution was imminent. For this reason, the Claretians had the file documents removed and the main relic of the Blessed Anthony Mary Claret was hidden.
After eating, the priests saw from the library that some trucks had arrived full of militia. The Superior gave everyone permission to leave the house in hopes of finding safety. The priests went out in groups.
At three in the afternoon, Fr. Bertrams, the Vice Postulator and the guardian of the tomb, Father Tomás Pujadas set about saving the sacred body of Blessed Claret. Father Mariano Brossa had gone to ask for permission from the Prelate and would come back hoping everything was ready.
Father Brossa arrived, accompanied by the Pro-Vicar of Bishop. He had obtained the authorization of the Bishop. The remains of Father Claret were rescued and safe. On the 21st, the community began their dispersal to families who offered them refuge.
In Vic, the priest José Arner and Casto Navarro were the first victims, on the night of the 7th to 8th August, in Sant Sadurní d’Osormot, close to Vic. Later it would be the priests, Josep Puigdessens, and Julio Aramendia, who would die on the morning of 17th August.
The Fr. Joan Blanch was killed on the 31st August. On the 24th October, the priests Joan Codinach, Miquel Codina and Bro. Jose Casals, all received the palm of martyrdom. The final martyr of the Vic community would be Brother Miguel Facerías. It was the 22nd February of 1937. In total, nine Claretians suffered martyrdom in Vic.
The community of Sallent
The community of Sallent, were also to be splattered by the blood of the missionaries. At eight in the morning on July 20th 1936, some militia arrived to search the house and the chapel. The record was closely scrutinized by all the militia units and they withdrew without finding any weapons. At noon, the Town Council notified the Claretians that there was a need to leave the house immediately, to avoid any mishaps. At this time, the community had five individuals, who all died martyrs.