The following Blesseds were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000  :  
Bl. Andrew
Bl. Andre de Soveral
Bl. Ambrosio Francisco Ferro and 28 Companions
Bl. Columba Marmion
Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos
Bl. Francisco Marto
Bl. Jacinta Marto
Bl. Pope John XXIII
Bl. M. Boromea
Bl. M. Canisia
Bl. M. Canute of Jesus in the Garden
Bl. M. Daniele of Jesus and Mary Immaculate
Bl. M. Felicita
Bl. M. Gwidona of the Mercy of God
Bl. M. Hellodora
Bl. M. Imelda of Jesus Host
Bl. M. Raymond of Jesus and Mary
Bl. M. Sergia of the Sorrowful Mother of God
Bl. M. Stella of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Bl. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan
Bl. Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos
Bl. Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad
Bl. Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbanirung
Bl. Pedro Calungsod
Bl. Pope Pius IX
Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno
Bl. Tomaso Reggio 
Bl. William Joseph Chaminade

3 September 2000

Bl. Tomaso Reggio was born in Genoa, Italy on 9 January 1818 to the Marquis of Reggio and Angela Pareto. He had a comfortable upbringing which gave him a solid Christian and cultural background and assured him of a brilliant career. However, at the age of 20 he decided to become a priest and to turn his back On his previous life. At the time of ordination on 18 September 1841 he said: "I want to become a saint, cost what it may, living my life in accordance with the two cornerstones of Christianity: prayer and ascesis".

At the age of 25 he was already the vice-rector of the Genoa seminary and later the rector of the Chiavari seminary at a politically turbulent time in the mid-1800s. While in charge of the seminary he became one of the founders of the first Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Standard.

He wanted to report news clearly and honestly. His defence of the Christian faith and its basic principles never got in the way of truth and freedom. In 1865 The Catholic Standard and 25 other newspapers supported Catholic electoral lists. They were hoping for a Catholic political party, but when the Non expedit came out in 1874 and Catholics were told that they could not vote he realized that his newspaper could not go on. He closed it down without complaint.

In 1877 he was consecrated Bishop of Ventimiglia, a very poor Diocese that he was to cross many times on the back of a mule. He was able to feel the pulse of his Diocese by visiting even the most inaccessible villages, and organized three Synods in just 15 years. A renovation project was also begun: new parishes were opened, there was a revival of the liturgy and hymns played an important part in the Mass. There were also teaching programmes set up for all sectors of the population.

In 1878 the Bishop founded the Sisters of St Martha, a religious order whose purpose was "to meet the requirements of every age". He gave them the task of welcoming "the poorest of the poor" like Martha, who "served Jesus with her humble hands".

From him they learned how to worship in silence, to nourish themselves constantly with prayer and to discover "on their knees" the values of a faith whereby Christ can be found in the humblest and in all those with whom he is identified.

In 1887 the Diocese was hit by an earthquake. Despite the fact that the Bishop was now elderly, he was actively at work among the rubble. He did not only bless and console but called on his parish priests to make a rigorous and exact check of the gravity of the situation in each parish. His patched cassock and his watch hanging from a piece of string testified that he was a Bishop who had become "poor" for his people.

His main concern was for the orphans whose numbers had increased after the earthquake, so he founded orphanages in Ventimiglia and San Remo, where they could learn a trade and the money they earned was put aside for when they would have to go out into the world alone.

In 1892 he asked the Pope to be relieved of his duties. The Holy Father's answer was surprising: in May 1892 he appointed him Archbishop of Genoa.

He was 74 and his new job was anything but easy given the complex situation in the city of Genoa. The civil authorities were hostile towards him, but he humbly accepted his post, certain of doing God's will. The Archbishop's influence was such that eventually Catholics and nonbelievers brought their problems to him, as one would to a good and wise father.

With Bishops Bonomelli and Scalabrini he set up an assistance network for immigrants which supplied them with documents to prevent any exploitation. Catholic associations were encouraged and he supported reduced work hours and weekends off for labourers, which soon gained him the admiration of his adversaries.

He would pray every night from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. Cheerful and carefree, he made no show of his penitential life. He worshiped Christ and knew how to hide his problems and labours behind a cheerful and humorous appearance. He had an unshakable faith and a natural humility which sustained his life,

In 1900 Catholic Italy decided to consecrate the new century to God and Our Lady. The Archbishop invited all the Ligurian Bishops to Ventimiglia for a pilgrimage to Monte Saccarello, where a statue of the Redeemer was erected. Although he very much wanted to go up the mountain, he took ill and was unable to do so. He died on the afternoon of 22 November 1901.

Bl. William Joseph Chaminade was born in Perigueux, France. in 1761. He was the l4th child of a deeply Christian family: besides William Joseph , three of his brothers were priests. In 1771 he entered the minor seminary of Mussidan and four years later made private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He was ordained a priest in 1785.

In 1790 after the outbreak of the French Revolution, he moved to Bordeaux, where he spent most of his life. In 1791 he refused to take the oath of the so-called Civil Constitution of the Clergy and clandestinely exercised his priestly ministry, putting his life in constant danger. At this time he came to know the Ven. Marie-Therese Charlotte de Lamourous (1754-1836), who was one of his closest collaborators and whom he later helped to found the Misericorde in Bordeaux to aid fallen women. In 1795 he was given the delicate task of receiving back into the Diocese priests who, having taken the constitutional oath, wanted to make their peace with the Church. He facilitated the reconciliation of some 50 priests.

In 1797, during the reign of the Directorate, he was forced to emigrate to Zaragoza, Spain, where he lived for three years. Near the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar, he forged his Marianapostolic convictions and was inspired to found a family of religious and laity dedicated to Mary. In November 1800 he returned to Bordeaux and refounded the old Marian Sodality on a new basis. He made every effort to give his sodalists solid religious formation and directed them towards precise apostolic objectives, encouraging them to offer to an indifferent and de christianized society "the spectacle of a people of saints". This sodality would be the basis of his untiring evangelizing activity, aimed at the rechristianization of France.

During these years he was named Apostolic Administrator for the reorganization of the Diocese of Bazas. In 1801 he received the title of Missionary Apostolic from the Holy See. It was the official confirmation of his insights into the Church in this new era.

Fr Chaminade viewed his own ministry and that of the Marian Sodalities as a permanent mission directed towards formation in the faith, using new methods and working in close alliance with Mary. The Sodality of Bordeaux spread to other cities of the region and throughout France through groups that asked for affiliation because they wished to follow Fr Chaminade's inspiration and methods. He fostered some groups of young men and women who, desiring greater dedication, made private vows and dedicated themselves to the apostolate of the Sodality without leaving their secular work.

In 1816, together with the Ven. Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon (1789-1828), he founded at Agen the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and the following year, at Bordeaux, the Society of Mary. His first members, who would later be called Marianists, were members of the Marian Sodalities, men and women who wished to respond to the Lord with a more radical commitment, an extension of their baptismal consecration and of their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The two institutes developed rapidly in France and in 1839 received the decretum laudis from Pope Gregory XVI. Since teaching was a primary need at that time, both institutes of Marianists dedicated themselves to primary and secondary schools and to trade schools. They taught in order to educate and form their pupils in the faith. Fr Chaminade also conceived an ambitious project to establish a network of teachers' schools for Christian education. Some of these schools were founded by sisters and brothers, but the 1830 Revolution made their continuation impossible.

During these years Fr Chaminade gave priority to drafting the Constitutions and wrote important circulars on consecration-covenant with Mary and on Marianist religious life. The Society of Mary continued to grow in France, then in Switzerland (1839) and the United States of America (1849). After 1836 the Daughters of Mary established a number of rural schools in south-western France for the education and advancement of women.

The last 10 years of his life were a time of severe trial: health problems, financial difficulties, the departure of some disciples, misunderstandings and distrust, obstacles to the exercise of his mission as founder. He faced these difficulties with great confidence in Mary, faithful to his conscience and to the Church, filled with faith and charity. He died peacefully in Bordeaux, surrounded by many of his sons, on 22 January 1850.

Bl. Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy, in the Diocese of Bergamo on 25 November 1881. He was the fourth in family of 14. The family worked as sharecroppers. It was a patriarchal family in the sense that the families of two brothers lived together, headed by his great-uncle Zaverio, who had never married and whose wisdom guided the work and other business of the family. Zaverio was Angelo's godfather, and to him he always attributed his first and most fundamental religious education. The religious atmosphere of his family and the fervent life of the parish, under the guidance of Fr Francesco Rebuzzini, provided him with training in the Christian life.

He entered the Bergamo seminary in 1892. Here he began the practice of making spiritual notes, which he continued in one form or another until his death, and which have been gathered together in the Journal a Soul. Here he also began the deeply cherished practice of regular spiritual direction. In 1896 he was admitted to the Secular Franciscan Order by the spiritual director of the Bergamo seminary, Fr Luigi Isacchi; he made a profession of its Rule of life on 23 May 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he was a student at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On 10 August 1904 he was ordained a priest in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Rome's Piazza del Popolo. In 1905 he was appointed secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi. He accompanied the Bishop in his pastoral visitations and collaborated with him in his many initiatives: a Synod, management of the diocesan bulletin, pilgrimages, social works. In the seminary he taught history, patrology and apologetics, He was an elegant, profound, effective and sought-after preacher.

These were 'the years of his deepening spiritual encounter with two saints who were outstanding pastors: St Charles Borromeo and St Francis de Sales. They were years, too, of deep pastoral involvement and apprenticeship, as he spent every day beside "his" Bishop, Radini Tedeschi. When the Bishop died in 1914, Fr Angelo continued to teach in the seminary and to minister in various pastoral areas.

When Italy went to war in 1915 he was drafted as a sergeant in the medical corps and became a chaplain to wounded soldiers. When the war ended, he opened a "Student House" for the spiritual needs of young people.

In 1919 he was made spiritual director of the seminary, but in 1921 he was called to the service of the Holy See. Benedict XV brought him to Rome to be the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the, Faith. In 1925 Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria, raising him to the episcopate with the titular Diocese of Areopolis. For his episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax, which became his guiding motto for the rest of his life.

On 19 March 1925 he was ordained Bishop and left for Bulgaria. He was granted the title Apostolic Delegate and remained in Bulgaria until 1935, visiting Catholic communities and establishing relationships of respect and esteem with the other Christian communities. In the aftermath of the 1928 earthquake his solicitude was everywhere present. He endured in silence the misunderstandings and other difficulties of a ministry on the fringes of society, and thus refined his sense of trust and abandonment to Jesus crucified.

In 1935 he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. The Catholic Church was present in many ways in the young Turkish republic. His ministry among the Catholics was intense, and his respectful approach and dialogue with the worlds of Orthodoxy and Islam became a feature of his tenure. When the Second World War broke out he was in Greece. He tried to get news from the prisoners of war to their families and assisted many Jews to escape by issuing "transit visas" from the Apostolic Delegation. In December 1944 Pius XII appointed him Nuncio in France.

During the last months of the war and the beginning of peace he aided prisoners of war and helped to normalize the ecclesiastical organization of France. He visited the great shrines of France and participated in popular feasts and in important religious celebrations. He was an attentive, prudent and positive observer of the new pastoral initiatives of the Bishops and clergy of France. His approach was always characterized by a striving for Gospel simplicity, even amid the most complex diplomatic questions. The sincere piety of his interior life found expression each day in prolonged periods of prayer and meditation. In 1953 he was created a Cardinal and sent to Venice as Patriarch. He was filled with joy at the prospect of ending his days in the direct care of souls, as he had always desired since becoming a priest. He was a wise and enterprising pastor, following the model pastors be had always venerated and walking in the footsteps of St Laurence Giustiniani, first Patriarch of Venice. As he advanced in years his trust in the Lord grew in the midst of energetic, enterprising and joyful pastoral labours.

At the death of Pius XII he was elected Pope on 28 October 1958, taking the name John XXIII. His pontificate, which lasted less than five years, presented him to the entire world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, enterprising , and courageous, simple and active, he carried out the Christian duties of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: visiting the imprisoned and the sick, welcoming those of every nation and faith, bestowing on all his exquisite fatherly care. His social magisterium in the Encyclicals Pacem in terris and Mater et Magistra was deeply appreciated.

He convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council. He was present as Bishop in his Diocese of Rome through his visitation of the parishes, especially those in the new suburbs. The faithful saw in him a reflection of the goodness of God and called him "the good Pope". He was sustained by a profound spirit of prayer. He launched an. extensive renewal of the Church, while radiating the peace of one who always trusted in the Lord. Pope John XXIII died on the evening of 3 June 1963, in a spirit of profound trust in Jesus and of longing for his embrace.

Bl. Columba Marmion was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 1 April 1858 to an Irish father (William Marmion) and a French mother (Herminie Cordier). Given the name Joseph Aloysius at birth, he entered the Dublin diocesan seminary in 1874 and completed his theological studies at the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was ordained a priest at St Agatha of the Goths on 16 June 1881.

He dreamed of becoming a missionary monk in Australia, but was won over by the liturgical atmosphere of the newly founded Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, which he visited on his return to Ireland in 1881. His Bishop asked him to wait and appointed him curate in Dundrum, then professor at the major seminary in Clonliffe (1882-86). As the chaplain at a convent of Redemptorist nuns and at a women's prison, he learned to guide souls, to hear confessions, to counsel and to help the dying.

In 1886 he received his Bishop's permission to become a monk. He voluntarily renounced a promising ecclesiastical career and was welcomed at Maredsous by Abbot Placidus Wolter. His novitiate, under the iron rule of Dom Benoit D'Hondt and among a group of young novices (when he was almost 30), proved all the more difficult because he had to change habits, culture and language. But saying that he had entered the monastery to learn obedience, he let himself be moulded by monastic discipline, community life and choral prayer until his solemn profession on 10 February 1891.

He received his first "obedience" or mission when he was assigned to the small group of monks sent to found the Abbey of Mont Cesar in Louvain. Although it distressed him, he gave his all to it for the sake of obedience. There he was entrusted with the task of Prior beside Abbot de Kerchove, and served as spiritual director and professor to all the young monks studying philosophy or theology in Louvain.

He started to devote more time to preaching retreats in Belgium and in the United Kingdom, and gave spiritual direction to many communities, particularly those of Carmelite nuns. He become the confessor of Mons. Joseph Mercier, the future Cardinal, and the two formed a lasting friendship.

During this period, Maredsous Abbey was governed by Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, its second Abbot, who in 1893 would become, at the request of Leo XIII, the first Primate of the Benedictine Confederation. His frequent stays in Rome required that he be replaced as Abbot of Maredsous, and it is Dom Columba Marmion who was elected the third Abbot of Maredsous on 28 September 1909, receiving the abbatial blessing on 3 October. He was placed at the head of a community of more than 100 monks, with a humanities college, a trade school and a farm to run. He also had to maintain a well-established reputation for research on the sources of the faith and to continue editing various publications, including the Revue Benedictine.

His ongoing care of the community did not stop Dom Marmion from preaching retreats or giving regular spiritual direction. He was asked to help the Anglican monks of Caldey when they wished to convert to Catholicism. His greatest ordeal was the First World War. His decision to send the young monks to Ireland so that they could complete their education in peace led to additional work, dangerous trips and many anxieties. It also caused misunderstandings and conflicts between the two generations within this community shaken by the war. German lay brothers, who had been present since the monastery's foundation by Beuron Abbey, had to be sent home (despite the Benedictine vow of stability) at the outbreak of hostilities, After the war was over, a small group of monks was urgently dispatched to the Monastery of the Dormition in Jerusalem to replace the German monks expelled by the British authorities. Finally, the Belgian monasteries were separated from the Beuron Congregation, and in 1920 the Belgian Congregation of the Annunciation was set up with Maredsous, Mont Cesar and St Andre of Zevenkerken.

His sole comfort during this period was preaching and giving spiritual direction. His secretary, Dom Raymond Thibaut, prepared his spiritual conferences for publication: Christ the Life of the Soul (1917), Christ in His Mysteries (1919) and Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922). He was already considered an outstanding Abbot (Queen Elisabeth of Belgium consulted with him at length) and a great spiritual author.

He died during a flu epidemic on 30 January 1923.

B1. Pope Plus IX was born in Senigallia, Italy, on 13 May 1792, the son of Gerolamo of the Counts Mastai Ferretti, and Caterina Solazzi, of the local nobility. He was baptized on the day of his birth with the name Giovanni Maria. Of delicate physical constitution but of very lively intelligence, his childhood was marked by little voluntary mortifications and an intense religious life.

In 1809 he moved to Rome for higher studies. A disease not well diagnosed, which some called epilepsy, forced him to interrupt his studies in 1812. He was accepted into the Pontifical Noble Guard in 1815, but because of his illness he was immediately discharged. It was at this time that St Vincent Pallotti predicted that he would become Pope and that the Virgin of Loreto would free him eventually from the disease.

After serving briefly in the Tata Giovanni Educational Institute, he participated as a catechist in 1816 in a memorable mission in Senigallia and, immediately thereafter, decided to enter the ecclesiastical state. He was ordained a priest in 1819. Conscious of his noble rank, he committed himself to avoiding a prelatial career in order to remain only at the service of the Church.

He celebrated his first Mass in the Church of St Anne of the Carpenters at the Tata Giovanni Institute, of which he was named rector, remaining there until 1823. He was immediately recognized as assiduous in prayer, in the ministry of the Word, in the celebration of the liturgy, in the confessional and above all in his daily ministry at the service of the humblest and neediest. He admirably united the active and the contemplative life: ready for pastoral needs, but always interiorly recollected, with strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion and fidelity to daily meditation and the examination of conscience.

In 1823 he left the institute to serve the Apostolic Nuncio in Chile, Mons. Giovanni Muzi. There he remained until 1825, when he was elected President of St Michael's Hospice, a grand but complex institution in need of effective reform. To it Mastai applied himself with more than gratifying results, but without ever neglecting his priestly duties. Two years later, at the age of 35, he was consecrated Archbishop of Spoleto, In 1831 the revolution which had begun in Parma and Modena spread to Spoleto. The Archbishop did not want the shedding of blood and repaired, as much as possible, the deleterious effects of the violence. When calm was restored, he obtained a pardon for all, even for those who did not merit it.

Another turbulent see awaited Mastai in Imola, where he was transferred in 1832. He remained an eloquent preacher, prompt in charity toward everyone, zealous for the supernatural as well as the material well-being of his Diocese, devoted to his clergy and seminarians, a promoter of education for the young, sensitive to the needs of the contemplative life, devoted to the Sacred Heart and to Our Lady, benevolent towards all but firm in his principles. In 1840 he received the Cardinal's hat at the age of 48.

Despite having shunned honours, on the evening of 16 June 1846 Mastai found himself burdened with the greatest of them: he was elected Pope and took the name Pius IX.

He had a difficult pontificate, but precisely because of that he was a great Pope, certainly one of the greatest. Thoroughly aware of being the "Vicar of Christ" and responsible for the rights of God and of the Church, he was clear, simple consistent. He combined firmness and understanding, fidelity and openness.

He began with an act of generosity and Christian sensitivity: amnesty for political crimes. His first Encyclical was a programmatic vision, but anticipated the "Syllabus": in it he condemned secret societies, freemasonry and communism. In 1847 he promulgated a decree granting extensive freedom of the press and instituted a civil guard, the municipal and communal council, the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. From then on his interventions as Father of all nations and temporal Prince continued unabated.

The question of Italian independence, which he sympathized with, did not set the Prince against the Pope, a fact that alienated the most intransigent liberals.

The situation came to a head on 15 November when Pellegrino Rossi, the head of government, was killed and Pius IX had to take refuge in Gaeta.

After the proclamation of the Roman Republic (9 February 1849), he moved to Portici and later returned to Rome (12 April 1850). He reorganized the Council of State, established the Council for Finances, granted a new amnesty, re-established the Catholic hierarchy in England and in Holland. In 1853 he condemned Gallican doctrines and founded the well-known "Seminario Pio". He established the Commission on Christian Archaeology, defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854 and blessed the rebuilt St Paul's Basilica which had been destroyed by fire in 1823.

In 1856 he approved the plan for railways in the Papal States and on 24 April 1859 inaugurated the first section between Rome and Civitavecchia. In 1857 he visited the Papal States and was welcomed everywhere with rejoicing. He sent missionaries to the North Pole, India, Burma, China and Japan.

Meanwhile dark clouds gathered over him with the Italian "Risorgimento", the Piedmontese annexations that were dismantling the Papal States and the expropriation of the Legations. Suffering but undaunted, he continued to show his charity and concern for all. In 1862 he established a dicastery to deal with the concerns of Eastern-rite Catholics; in 1864 he published his Syllabus condemning modern errors; in 1867 he celebrated the 18th centenary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul; in 1869 he received the homage of the entire world for the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination. Later that year he opened the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, the pearl of his pontificate, and closed it on 18 July 1870.

With the fall of Rome (20 September 1870) and of the temporal power, the saddened Pontiff considered himself a prisoner of the Vatican, resisting the "Laws of Guarantees", but approving the "Work of Congresses". He consecrated the Church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, disciplined the participation of Catholics in political life with the Non expedit and restored the Catholic hierarchy of Scotland. Suffering from poor health, he gave his last address to the parish priests of Rome on 2 February 1878. On 7 February the longest pontificate in history ended with his holy death.

13 May 2000

The seers of Fátima

The apparitions

On 13 May 1917 three shepherd children of Aljustrel, a village near Fátima, Portugal, were tending a small flock at the nearby Cova da Iria (in today's Diocese of Leiria-Fátima). They were Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7.

At about noon, after reciting the Rosary as they usually did, they started building a little house with stones. The basilica stands in this place today. Suddenly they saw a great light. Thinking that it was lightning, they decided to leave, but another flash lit up the clearing, and above a small holm oak (today the site of the Chapel of the Apparitions) they saw a "Lady brighter than the sun", from whose hands hung a white rosary.

The Lady told them that they should pray frequently and invited them to return to the Cova da Iria for five consecutive months on the 13th day. The children did so, and on 13 June, July, September and October the Lady appeared again and spoke with them. On 13 August the children were unable to come because they had been taken away by the mayor of Villa Nova de Ourém, to whose district Fátima belonged. The mayor threatened them in various ways to make them confess that they had lied. But they received an unexpected apparition on 19 August, while grazing their flock in the "dos Valinhos".

During the last apparition, 13 October, in the presence of about 70,000 people, the Lady told them that she was "Our Lady of the Rosary" and asked that a chapel be built in her honour on that site. After the apparition everyone present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September. The sun appeared as a disc that gave off various colours and could be looked at without difficulty; it spun like a fireball and looked as if it would fall to the earth.

Later, when Lucia was already a Dorothean sister, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain (10 December 1925 and 15 February 1926 at the Convent of Pontevedra, and again during the night of 13-14 June 1929 at the Convent of Tuy), asking her for the devotion of the five First Saturdays (to pray the Rosary, to meditate on its mysteries, to confess and to receive Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. This request had already been made during the apparition of 13 July 1917 in the so-called "secret of Fátima".

Several years later, Lucia also revealed that between April and October 1916 an angel had appeared three times to them: twice in the Loca do Cabego and once at the well in the garden of her family house. In these apparitions the angel invited them to pray and do penance.

The little shepherds of Fátima

Bl. Francisco Marto was born on 11 June 1908 in Aljustrel. He died a holy death on 4 April 1919 at his family home. Deeply sensitive and contemplative, he offered all his spiritual life and penance to "console the Lord". His mortal remains were buried in the parish cemetery until 13 March 1952, when they were taken to the basilica at the Cova da Iria and placed in the chapel to the right of the main altar.

Bl. Jacinta Marto was born in Aljustrel on 11 March 1910. After a long and painful illness she died a holy death on 20 February 1920 in Lisbon, offering all her sufferings for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world and for the Holy Father. On 12 September 1935 her body was solemnly taken from the family tomb of Baron Alvaiázere in Ourém to the cemetery of Fátima and placed near the mortal remains of her little brother, Francisco. On 1 May 1951 Jacinta's mortal remains were placed with great simplicity in the tomb prepared in the basilica at the Cova da Iria in the side chapel to the left of the main altar.

The beatification process for the Fátima seers Francisco and Jacinta Marto began in 1952 and was finished in 1979. On 15 February 1988 the final documentation was presented to John Paul II and to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They were declared "venerable" on 13 May 1989.

*   *   *

Lucia de Jesus was born on 22 March 1907 in Aljustrel. On 17 June 1921 she entered the College of Vilar (Porto), run by the Religious of St Dorothy. She was then sent to Tuy, where she made her perpetual profession on 3 October 1934. In 1948 she moved to Coimbra, where she entered the Carmel of St Teresa, taking the name of Sr Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. On 31 May 1949 she made her solemn vows. Sr Lucia has returned to Fátima several times: May 1946; 13 May 1967; in 1981 to direct, at the Carmel, a painting of the Fátima apparitions; and on 13 May 1982 and 13 May 1991 for the two visits of John Paul II.

9 April 2000

Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, one of 12 children born to Mang and Frances Schwarzenbach Seelos, entered the world on 11 January 1819 in Füssen (Bavaria, Germany). He was baptized in the parish church of St Mang where his father, after having been a textile merchant, would become the sacristan.

After completing his primary education, he expressed a desire to become a priest and attended St Stephen's Institute in Augsburg. Receiving his diploma in 1839, he went on to the University in Munich, where he completed his studies in philosophy and then began to study theology in preparation for entering the seminary.

It was at this time that, through his acquaintance with Redemptorist missionaries, he came to know the institute's charism and apostolic work, especially among immigrants in the United States of America.

Moved by apostolic zeal and deeply touched by the letters published in the Catholic newspaper Sion describing the lack of spiritual care for German-speaking immigrants, Seelos decided to enter the congregation, asking to work as a missionary in the United States. Receiving the necessary approval, he arrived in New York on 20 April 1843.

On 22 December 1844, after having completed his theological studies and novitiate, Seelos was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St James in Baltimore, USA. A few months after ordination, he was transferred to St Philomena's Parish in Pittsburgh, where he remained nine years. His first six years there were spent as an assistant to St John Neumann, who was also the superior of the Redemptorist community. The remaining three years, Francis Seelos served as superior of that same community. It was during these years that he was appointed novice master.

His availability and his kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful quickly made him known as a confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighbouring towns. The faithful described him as the missionary with a constant smile and a generous heart, especially towards the needy.

Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practised a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his richly biblical preaching could always be understood even by the simplest people. A constant pastoral endeavour was instructing little children in the faith. He not only favoured this ministry, but considered it essential for the growth of the Christian community.

In 1854 he was transferred from Pittsburgh to a number of cities in the state of Maryland: Baltimore, then Cumberland (1857) and Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in parish ministry. In Cumberland and Annapolis he also served in the formation of future Redemptorists as prefect of students. He was always prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instil in these future missionaries enthusiasm, a spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.

In 1860 Bishop Michael O'Connor of Pittsburgh recommended Fr Seelos as the priest most qualified to succeed him. Francis Seelos wrote Pope Pius IX, explaining his inadequacy for such a responsibility and asking "to be liberated from this calamity". He was overjoyed when another priest was named Bishop of Pittsburgh.

With the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, new laws were enacted in 1863 requiring every able-bodied male to make himself available for military duty. Seelos, as superior of the Redemptorist seminary, went to Washington and asked President Abraham Lincoln to exempt Redemptorist seminarians from military service. Lincoln, according to Seelos himself, was not only extremely receptive to the petition, but promised to do everything in his power to bring it about. In fact, the students were exempted from going off to war.

Relieved from his office as prefect of students because, according to a zealous confrere, he was too obliging and not severe enough with the seminarians, he dedicated himself to itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans. Serving as parish priest of St Mary of the Assumption Church, he was known to be joyously available to his faithful and concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned. His prayers were considered very powerful in obtaining favours from God.

In God's plan, however, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. Exhausted from caring for yellow fever victims, he contracted the disease and, after several weeks of patiently enduring his illness, died on 4 October 1867 at the age of 48.

Bl. Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad was born in Fåglavik, in the province of Västergötland, Sweden, on 4 June 1870, the vigil of Pentecost. She was the fifth child in a family of 13. Her parents were practising Lutherans. She was baptized on 12 July and given the name Mary Elisabeth. She was "confirmed" according to the Lutheran rite and received her First Communion at the age of 14. After many years, she wrote in her "autobiographic memories": "One long whole year I prepared myself with great intensity and care for First Holy Communion, and when the great day arrived, I was sure that I was about to receive the Lord" (Positio, II, 59).

Already at that time, seeing her friends frequenting different churches, she used to ask herself which was the one fold about which she had read in John's Gospel. Later she wrote: "Often I prayed that the Lord guide me into this one fold".

When her father's business went bankrupt, Mary Elisabeth felt the need to look for a job to support her family. When she was 16 years of age she started working in Sweden as a housemaid. In 1888, at the age of 18, she emigrated to the United States. Arriving in New York she took up a job as a nurse in the great Roosevelt Hospital. There she did her utmost to help the sick not only in their physical but also in their spiritual needs, calling a Catholic priest whenever the patients asked for him. In this manner she came in contact with Catholics for the first time.

In those years she had never ceased to search and to make contact with the different denominations. One day she found herself in a convent where she had to nurse a sister and henceforth she started studying and reflecting on the Catholic truths. Recalling this period in her life, she wrote: "Providence, looking after me in a wonderful manner, took advantage of a particular circumstance [the accident of a sister] to bring about a great change in my life and thereby bring me to an important turning-point" (Positio, II, 253).

In 1900 she was in Brussels with two of her Catholic friends where she attended the Corpus Christi procession. When the Blessed Sacrament was passing in front of her, she experienced a special feeling which proved decisive for her in embracing the Catholic faith. While the Bishop was passing with the monstrance, she felt the presence and the voice of God: "I am he whom you seek". There she made her first act of adoration to Jesus in the Eucharist. On 15 August 1902 in Washington, she was received into the Catholic Church and conditionally baptized.

On 25 March 1904 she came to Rome to the house of St Bridget of Sweden, where she would have liked to die: the best doctors in the United States had told her that her sickness was so advanced that she had only a short time to live. From 1904 to 1906 her health improved and she could live as a Carmelite novice in the house of St Bridget. On the feast of the Sacred Heart in 1906, with the special permission of Pope Pius X, she took up the grey Brigittine habit and made her vows as a daughter of St Bridget.

During the period 1908-11, she visited the Brigittine monasteries in Europe in order to study the rule and to gather a small group of sisters to start a Brigittine monastery in Rome and take the order back to Sweden. Her voyages bore no fruit but, guided by sage priests, she founded the Order of St Bridget in Rome in 1911 and later in Sweden in 1923. Since then, other houses were opened in Europe and India. She imparted her charism to all her daughters: prayer and work for the attainment of Christian unity. "That all may be one" was her profound desire.

During the First World War, but especially during the Second, the servant of God dedicated herself generously to aid those who needed her assistance. She offered hospitality and a hiding-place in the order's houses to politicians and Jews who were victims of persecution. During the years 1945-46 she helped the poor with the goods she received from Sweden.

Her ecumenical yearning became a reality after 1947 through meetings with important persons who had passed from the non-Catholic world to the Catholic faith, but especially with Fr Boyer, a zealous worker in the ecumenical field. Bl. Elisabeth became an enthusiastic collaborator of the ecumenical movement founded by Fr Boyer. She offered accomodation and assistance at the house of St Bridget.

Towards the end of her life, the sickness which had accompanied her since her youth worsened and confined her to bed. She died on 24 April 1957, rich in merits and the virtues which she had practised throughout her life.

Bl. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan was born on 26 April 1876 to Thoma and Thanda Chiramel Mankidiyan in Puthenchira, Kerala, India.

Though her family was once wealthy, it became impoverished as Thresia's grandfather married off seven daughters and sold property to pay costly dowries. To forget their poverty, her father and brother took to drinking. Such was her family background. The third of five children, she grew up in piety and holiness under the loving guidance of her saintly mother Thanda. From early childhood Thresia was moved by an intense desire to love God. For this purpose she fasted four times a week and prayed the Rosary several times a day. She also consecrated her virginity to Christ when she was about 10 years old.

When Thresia was 12, her mother died. She now began a long search to discern her own vocation. She longed for a hidden life of prayer and left home to lead an eremitical life of prayer and penance. But this plan proved naive. She continued to frequent the church with three of her companions, clean it and decorate the altar. She also helped the poor, nursed the sick and visited the lonely. She even nursed victims of leprosy and small pox, and cared for their orphaned children.

Thresia placed her trust in the help of the Holy Family. She saw them frequently in visions and received guidance in her apostolate. She prayed for sinners, fasted for their conversion and exhorted them to repentance. Receiving the mystical gifts of prophecy, healing, aura of light and sweet odour, she also had frequent ecstasies and levitations. On Fridays people used to see her lifted high and hanging in the form of a cross on the wall of her room. She bore the stigmata, carefully hiding it from public view. Perhaps to help keep her humble amid such mystical favours, the Lord let her be tormented by diabolical attacks throughout much of her life. She also had to fight temptations against faith and chastity, and passed through the dark night of the soul.

In 1903 Mariam Thresia requested her Bishop's permission to build a prayer house of solitude, but Mar John Menachery first wanted to test her vocation. He suggested that she consider joining the Franciscan Clarists or the Carmelite nuns at Ollur, but she did not feel it was her calling. Finally, in 1913 Mar Menachery permitted her to build a prayer house and sent his secretary to bless it. Thresia moved in, and her three companions soon joined her. They led a life of prayer and austere penance like hermits, but continued to visit the sick and to help the poor regardless of religion or caste. The Bishop discerned that here was a new religious congregation for the service of the family. On 14 May 1914 he erected it canonically and named it the Congregation of the Holy Family, while receiving the perpetual profession of Mariam Thresia, who was appointed its first superior.

During and after the difficult years of the First World War, she built, in less than 12 years, three new convents, two schools, two hostels, a study house and an orphanage. At the time of her death there were 55 sisters in the congregation. Today the Congregation of the Holy Family has 1,584 professed sisters serving in Kerala, northern India, Germany, Italy and Ghana.

Sustaining a leg injury that would not heal because of her diabetes, Mother Mariam Thresia died on 8 June 1926.

Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno was born in Genoa, Italy, on 14 October 1831 to a well-to-do Christian family. In her father Francesco and her mother Adelaide Campanella, she found the first models for her moral and Christian life.

At the age of 21 she married her cousin Gerolamo Custo and moved to Marseilles. Unforeseen financial difficulties soon upset the happiness of the new family, which was forced to return to Genoa in poverty. More serious misfortunes followed: their first child, Carlotta, after a sudden illness was left deaf and dumb; Gerolamo's attempt to find fortune abroad ended with his return, aggravated by a fatal illness; less than six years after their marriage her husband died, and a few months later she lost her youngest son.

The succession of so many sad events in her life marked a radical change which she called her "conversion" to the total gift of herself to the Lord. Under the guidance of her confessor, she made private perpetual vows of chastity and obedience, followed by vows of poverty as a Franciscan tertiary. Since 1855 she had obtained the benefit of daily Communion, which was uncommon at the time. Encouraged by ever growing intimacy with the Lord, she found support, missionary fervour and strength in her service to others. In 1862 she received the gift of the hidden stigmata, perceived most intensely on Fridays.

A faithful wife and exemplary mother, she also learned to share in the sufferings of others, giving herself in apostolic charity. The Catholic associations in Genoa competed for her, so that, although she loved silence and concealment, her genuinely evangelical way of life was remarked by all.

In February 1864 she received the inspiration for her own specific foundation. Fearful of being forced to abandon her children, she prayed, made acts of penance and asked advice. St Francis of Camporosso, a Capuchin lay brother, her confessor and the Archbishop of Genoa all supported her, but, she also sought authoritative confirmation from Pius IX, in the secret hope of being relieved. But at an audience on 3 January 1866 the Pope enjoined her to start her foundation immediately.

Overcoming the resistance of her relatives, she founded her new religious family in Piacenza, naming it the "Daughters of St Anne, Mother of Mary Immaculate" (8 December 1866). She was clothed on 26 July 1867 and on 8 April 1870 made her religious profession together with 12 sisters.

Entrusting herself totally to divine Providence and motivated from the start by a courageous charitable impulse, she attentively cared for every form of suffering and moral or material poverty. Various projects were begun for the poor and the sick, the lonely, the elderly, the young, adolescents and young girls "at risk". She also opened schools for the education of poor children.

However Mother Rosa Gattorno was not spared humiliations and difficulties of all kinds. Despite this, the institute spread rapidly in Italy and abroad, thus achieving her ardent missionary desire to be "Jesus' voice". By 1878 she was sending the first Daughters of St Anne to Bolivia, and later to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Eritrea, France and Spain.

In February 1900 she caught a dangerous form of influenza and rapidly deteriorated. On 4 May she received the Anointing of the Sick and on 6 May ended her earthly pilgrimage at the Generalate in Rome. When she died there were 368 houses with 3,500 sisters.

Bl. Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos was born to Pedro Euse and Rosalía de Hoyos in Yarumal, Colombia, on 14 October 1845, the eldest of seven children. His deeply religious parents were personally responsible for their children's primary education, teaching them good morals, reading, writing and the rudiments of science.

He lived as a farmer until he was 16, when he made known his desire to become a priest. He was entrusted to the care of his uncle Firmino Hoyos, parish priest of Girardota and widely known for his virtue and knowledge. With him Mariano began his cultural and spiritual formation and proved enthusiastic and hard-working. In 1869 he entered the newly opened seminary in Medellin and was ordained a priest on 14 July 1872.

Fr Mariano began his ministry in San Pedro as curate to his uncle Firmino. When Fr Firmino died in 1875, Fr Mariano was transferred to Yarumal (1876), and then to Angostura (1878). The parish priest of Angostura, Fr Rudesindo Correa, was elderly and frail. Fr Marianito, as he was affectionately known, soon became aware of the many problems lying before him: the construction of the parish church, technical problems and the threat of civil war. He patiently surmounted all difficulties and completed the church. He was named parish priest of Angostura, where for the rest of his life he continued to serve the Gospel and to be deeply concerned for the good of his parishioners' souls.

Nothing could stop Fr Mariano's zeal. His apostolic efforts bore abundant fruit, making a deep impression on the people and leaving a vivid memory. To everyone he was a diligent father, teacher and trusted adviser, a faithful witness to the love of Christ. He preferred the poor, whom he called "Christ's nobles", and gladly spent all he had to help them. He often visited the sick, and was available to them day or night. He gently led children and young people on the ways of good morals and wisdom.

He had great affection for farmworkers, recalling that he had once been one himself, and was attentive to their needs. He knew his people well and could speak to their hearts to encourage religious practice: attendance at Mass on feast days, recitation of the family Rosary, devotion to the Sacred Heart, Catholic associations and prayer for vocations.

Besides the parish church, he also built the rectory, the bell tower and the chapels of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of St Francis, as well as the cemetery.

His ministry was based on continuous prayer and asceticism. He had a special devotion to the Eucharist, Our Lady, the angels and the saints. During the long years of his apostolate he enjoyed good health, but he became bedridden in June 1926 with a serious infection, and on 12 July was stricken with enteritis. His poverty was such that an appeal had to be made to his people to care for him in his illness. Then he said to them: "I have lived long enough, and my greatest desire is to be united with my Jesus".

He died on 13 July 1926 and was buried in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel, which he had built. The whole population attended his funeral with the authorities and many priests.

5 March 2000

Bl. Andrew came from the province of RanRan (Phú Yên), today in Viet Nam, and was gifted with intelligence and a good heart. On the insistence of his mother, Fr de Rhodes, a famous Jesuit missionary, agreed to include him among his students. Andrew soon surpassed his fellow pupils. Together with his mother, he received Baptism in 1641. He would have been about 15 years of age, having been born in 1625 or 1626. At the time of his death in 1644, he was 19 or 20. In 1642 Andrew become one of Fr de Rhodes' closest co-workers and, after a year of further formation, he joined the Maison Dieu ("House of God") catechist association which Fr de Rhodes had instituted. Its members made a public promise to spend their entire lives serving the Church by helping priests and spreading the Gospel.

Before the end of July 1644, Mandarin Ong Nghe Bo returned to the province which he governed and where Andrew was living. He had orders from the King of Annam to prevent the expansion of Christianity in his kingdom. Fr de Rhodes, unaware of the Mandarin's intentions, paid him a courtesy visit, but was quickly informed that the King of Annam was angered at the great number of Cochin-Chinese who were following the Christian law. Fr de Rhodes must therefore leave the country and no longer teach Christian doctrine to the Cochin-Chinese; since the latter were the subjects of the King, they would incur the most severe penalties.

Fr de Rhodes left the palace and went directly to the prison where an elderly catechist was already incarcerated. Meanwhile the Mandarin had sent soldiers to Fr de Rhodes' house in search of another catechist, but he had left on an apostolic mission. They found young Andrew instead. In order not to return empty-handed to Ong Nghe Bo, they beat Andrew, bound him and transferred him to the Governor's palace.

On 25 July 1644 Andrew was taken to the Mandarin, who tried in various ways to make Andrew "desist from that foolish opinion of his, and give up the faith". But he replied that he was a Christian and most ready to undergo any suffering rather than abandon the law that he professed. Indignant at Andrew's inflexibility, the Mandarin ordered that he be taken to prison. The young Andrew was so serene and joyous at being able to suffer for Christ that people who came to see him recommended themselves to his prayers. He would not hear of this, but asked them to pray that God might give him the grace to be faithful to the end and to "respond with fullness of love to the infinite love of his Lord, who gave his life for men, by giving his own life".

The next day, 26 July, Andrew was taken to the Governor's public audience, where he was sentenced to death. In the afternoon, a captain led Andrew down the streets of Ke Cham to the place of execution, a field outside the city. Fr de Rhodes, many Portuguese and Vietnamese Christians, and even pagans followed the procession and witnessed the killing. Andrew exhorted the Christians to remain firm in their faith, not to be saddened by his death, and to help him with their prayers to be faithful to the end. He was executed with some blows of a lance and, finally, when he was about to be beheaded with a scimitar, he cried out the name of Jesus in a loud voice. Andrew accepted the sacrifice of his life for the faith and love of Christ.

Jesuit missionaries and diocesan priests from Portugal began to evangelize Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, in 1597. They catechized the Indios and formed the first Christian communities. In 1630 the Dutch invaded the region and conflicts arose, because the Dutch were Calvinists who restricted religious practice and persecuted Catholics.

The two episodes of the martyrdom of Bl. Andre de Soveral, Bl Ambrosio Francisco Ferro and 28 Companions occurred in this context. In Rio Grande do Norte there were only two parishes: Our Lady of the Presentation in Natal, of which Fr Ambrosio Francisco Ferro was parish priest, and Our Lady of the Purification in Cunhau, directed by Fr Andre de Soveral. These two parish communities were victims of harsh religious persecution by the Calvinists.

Bl. Andre de Soveral was born around 1572 in Sao Vicente, Brazil, the principal town on the island of Santos. He most likely studied at Children of Jesus College in his home town and it is there that his Jesuit vocation began. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1593 and made his novitiate in Bahia. After studying Latin and moral theology and learning the Indios' language, he was sent to the College of Olinda, a catechetical centre for the Indios throughout the region. He had his first missionary experience in Rio Grande do Norte in 1606 among the Potiguar Indios. On that occasion he entered a native village headed by an indigenous woman, Antonia Potiguara, whom he converted and baptized along with other Indios, and blessed her marriage. By 1614 he was parish priest of Cunhau and a member of the diocesan clergy.

The martyrdom of Fr Andre Fr Ambrosio and their faithful parishioners occurred on different days but in the same historical context. The first took place at Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel in Cunhau. On Sunday, 16 July 1645, Fr Andre de Soveral had gathered for Mass about 69 of the faithful, mostly farmers and workers employed in Cunhau's sugar cane factory.

The Dutch sent one of their emissaries to Cunhau, an unscrupulous and cruel German named Jakob Rabe, who presented himself as the envoy of the Supreme Dutch Council of Recife, saying that he would communicate its orders at the end of Mass. But this was merely a pretext, for after the consecration a band of Dutch soldiers, accompanied by Indios, burst into the chapel, blocked the exits and ferociously attacked the defenceless faithful. Fr Andre realized the gravity of the situation and interrupted Mass to urge the faithful to prepare for death. Although he had told the tyrants not to touch the minister of God and the sacred vessels, he was killed by an axe hurled at him by an Indio.

The second episode of martyrdom occurred on the banks of the Uruaqu River, about 20 kilometres from Natal, on 3 October 1645. Here the victims were the city's parishioners, led by their parish priest, Fr Ambrosio Francisco Ferro. Terrorized by the bloodshed that had occurred at Cunhau, the Catholics of Natal took refuge in several places, but in vain. The Dutch authorities forced them to go to a pre-arranged site where they were awaited by soldiers and a group of 200 Indios. Many of the faithful were tortured with their priest in various ways until they died. The chroniclers of the time describe the means of torture: their limbs were severed, their heads cut off; they were burned, their eyes, tongues and noses were torn off. A child was pinned to a tree trunk and another sliced in half with a sword. Mateus Moreira had his heart ripped out through his back, as he cried: "Praised be the Blessed Sacrament". Those martyred include 27 Brazilians, one Portuguese, one Spaniard and one Frenchman.

Bl. Pedro Calungsod was a young native of the Visayas region of the Philippines. Very little is known about him, but he was one of the boy catechists who went with some Spanish Jesuit missionaries from the Philippines to the Ladrones Islands in the western Pacific in 1668 to evangelize the Chamorros. Life in the Ladrones was hard, but the missionaries persevered, and the Mission was blessed with many conversions. The missionaries later renamed the islands "Marianas" in honour of the Blessed Virgin and the Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Ana, who was the benefactress of that Mission.

But soon a Chinese healer named Choco, envious of the missionaries’ prestige, started a rumour that the baptismal water was poisonous. And since some sickly Chamorro infants died after Baptism, many believed the calumniator and apostatized. Choco's campaign was supported by the macanjas (sorcerers) and the urritaos (young male prostitutes) who, along with the apostates, began persecuting the missionaries.

The worst assault occurred on 2 April 1672. At around seven o'clock in the morning, Pedro—by then about 17 years old—and the superior of the Mission, Fr Diego Luis de San Vitores, came to the village of Tomhorn on the island of Guam. There they were told that a baby girl was recently born, so they went to ask the child's father, Matapang, to bring the infant for Baptism. Matapang was a Christian and a friend of the missionaries, but having apostatized, he angrily refused. To give Matapang some time to reconsider, Fr Diego and Pedro gathered the children and some of the adults at the nearby shore and started chanting with them the truths of the Catholic faith. They invited Matapang to join them, but he shouted back that he was angry with God and was already fed up with Christian teachings. Determined to kill the missionaries, Matapang tried to enlist in his cause another villager named Hirao, who was not a Christian. Hirao refused, remembering the missionaries' kindness; but when Matapang branded him a coward, he got angered and agreed. Meanwhile Fr Diego and Pedro baptized the infant, with the consent of the Christian mother.

When Matapang learned of the Baptism, he became even more furious. He violently hurled spears first at Pedro, but he skirted the spears. The witnesses said that Pedro had every chance to escape, but he did not want to leave Fr Diego alone. Those who knew Pedro believed that he would have defeated his aggressors and freed both himself and Fr Diego if he had some weapons; but Fr Diego never allowed his companions to carry arms. Finally, a spear hit Pedro's chest and he fell to the ground. Hirao immediately charged towards him, killing him with the blow of a cutlass to the head. Fr Diego gave Pedro sacramental absolution. Afterwards the assassins killed him as well. Matapang took Fr Diego's crucifix and pounded it with a stone, blaspheming God. Then both assassins stripped the martyrs' bodies, took them out on a proa and threw them into the sea. Their remains were never recovered. Fr Diego Luis de San Vitores was beatified in 1985. It was his beatification that brought the memory of Pedro Calungsod to our day.

Bl. M. Stella of the Most Blessed Sacrament and 10 Companions, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis on 1 August 1943 in Nowogrodek, Poland (today Navahradak, Belarus). In 1929 the Servant of God Bishop Zygmunt Lozihski invited the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to Nowogrodek, to care for the Church of the Transfiguration, known as the Biala Fara ("White Church"), and to educate the children and young people. The sisters, who resided in Christ the King Convent during World War II (1939-45), had arrived over a period of several years. Similar to the people of the easternmost part of pre-war Poland, the sisters formed a mosaic of temperaments and personalities. They were united by one goal: the spreading of the kingdom of God's love, bequeathed to them by their foundress, Bl. Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd (Frances Siedliska, 1842-1902).

The outbreak of World War II and the ensuing occupation of the territory, first by the Soviet Union (1939-41), then by the Germans (1941-45), disturbed the harmony of Nowogrodek, Amid the darkness of war, Fara became a beacon of light, and it was not unusual for the faithful to come to Church in droves. The invaders were unable to tolerate the vibrant religious life of the Church, the home of all that is Polish and the bastion of Catholicism. With the arrival of a special Gestapo unit in the neighbouring town of Baranowicz, terrorist activity intensified in the area. The first mass execution took place in July 1942, when 60 people were killed.

On 18 July 1943 the Polish people were subjected to a new wave of arrests; 120 were imprisoned for the purpose of being executed. The people hurried to share their suffering with the sisters. The sisters responded by collectively reaching the decision to offer themselves in place of the imprisoned family members. In the evening, when Sr Maria Stella, superior of the community met Fr Alexander Zienkiewicz, the chaplain and rector of Fara, she expressed their decision: "My God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us who are free from family obligations and spare those who have wives and children in their care. We are even praying for this". As if in response to the sisters' prayers, the plans were changed. Some of the men were released, but the majority was sent to forced-labour camps in Germany. All of those men survived the war. Further intimidation included a threat to the life of the only surviving priest in the region, Fr Zienkiewicz. The sisters responded by renewing their readiness to sacrifice their lives: "0 my God! You, Father, are more needed here on earth than we, so we are now asking God, if further sacrifice is needed, to take us rather than you".

On 31 July 1943 a police officer issued an oral command to Sr Stella ordering her to appear, together with all the sisters, at the Gestapo headquarters. Eleven sisters complied with the order. The sisters' sentence had already been decided. The Gestapo was determined to exterminate priest and religious without even an investigation. The sisters were to be executed that same evening. Though they were driven to the outskirts of Nowogrodek, there was so much activity on the road and so many people milling about that the Gestapo returned to town. The next morning, Sunday, 1 August 1943, the sisters were executed in the birch-pine woods about five miles beyond Nowogrodek,

Sr M. Stella of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Adela Mardosewicz) was born on 14 December 1888 at Ciasnowka in the district of Nietwiesk (now in the Belarusian Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev). When she entered the Sisters of the Holy Family on 14 September 1910, she was a certified teacher, who later fulfilled the duties of moderator in a boarding school, bursar and sacristan. Arriving in Nowogrodek, in 1936, she served as local superior during the war. Goodness, generosity and love of neighbour were her outstanding characteristics. The people remember her prayerful expression, deep faith and great sensitivity to the suffering of others.

Sr M. Imelda of Jesus Host (Jadwiga Karolina Zak) was born on 29 December 1892 in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in the Diocese of BielskoZywiec. She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Raymond of Jesus and Mary (Anna Kokolowicz) was born on 24 August 1892 in Barwaniszk near Vilnius, which is now in the Lithuanian Archdiocese of Vilnius. She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Daniele of Jesus and Mary Immaculate (Eleanora Aniela Jozwik) was born on 25 January 1895 in Poizdow, a village in the Poldlasie region (at present the SiedIce Diocese). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Canute of Jesus In the Garden (Jozefa Chrobot) was born on 22 May 1896 at Raczyn in the Wielun region (Archdiocese of Czpstochowa). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Sergia of the Sorrowful Mother of God (Julia Rapiej) was born 18 August 1900 in the village of Rogoczyn in the district of Augustow (Diocese of Elk). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Gwidona of the Mercy of God (Helena Cierpka) was born 11 April 1900 in Granowiec in the district of Odalanow (Diocese of Kalisz). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Among the 11 martyred sisters there were four sisters in temporary vows. Three of them were unable to make their final profession because of the war and the occupation. The youngest martyr, Sr M. Boromea, had just taken her first vows less than a month before the outbreak of the war.

Sr M. Felicita (Paulina Borowik) was born on 30 August 1905 in Rudna in the province of Lublin (Diocese of SiedIce). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Hellodora (Leokadia Matuszewska) was born 8 February 1906 in Stara Huta in the province of Swiecie (Diocese of Pelplin). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Canisia (Eugenia Mackiewicz) was born 9 September 1903 in Suwalki (Diocese of Lomza). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Sr M. Boromea (Weronika Narmontowicz) was born 18 December 1916 in Wiercieliszki in the Grodno region (Diocese of Grodno). She was executed on 1 August 1943.

Bl. Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbanirung came from a traditional Thai Catholic family and was a parishioner of St Peter's Church in Nakhon Pathom province, not so far from Bangkok.

Nicolas was the first of five children born to Joseph Poxang and Agnes Thiang Kitbamrung. The baptismal register shows that Nicolas was born on 31 January 1895 and was baptized on 5 February 1895 with the Christian name "Benedictus" by Fr Rene Perros, later Vicar Apostolic of Siam (1909-47).

According to the seminary records at the time, Nicolas would have studied for eight years at Bang Xang Seminary and must have been a catechist for four years. Afterwards, he was admitted to the major seminary in Penang and studied there for six years. He then was ordained a priest on 24 January 1926 at Assumption Cathedral, Bangkok, by Bishop Rene Perros. Altogether he spent 18 years studying for the priesthood.

His first assignment was as an assistant to Fr Durand, the parish priest of Bang Nokkhuek Church in Samut Songkhram province.

Fr Durand and Nicolas welcomed the Salesian missionaries who arrived in Siam on 26 October 1927. Both of them still continued to help and advise on pastoral work here for the Salesian missionaries. Moreover, Nicolas also taught catechesis to the 16 Salesian seminarians and taught Salesian priests the Thai language. After completing their pastoral assignment, he and Fr Durand said farewell to the Salesians and parishioners following the New Year celebration of 1928. They handed on to the Salesians a good parish without reserving anything for themselves.

Fr Nicolas' generosity was shown again when he was assigned in 1929 as an assistant to Fr Mirabel in Phitsanulok province. He taught the Thai language to Fr Mirabel, who had just arrived. Fr Nicolas himself had also to learn the Chinese (Hakka) language and look after parish administration.

In 1930 Fr Mirabel began expanding his pastoral mission to northern Siam; in the meantime he asked Bishop Perros to send a priest as his replacement in Phitsanulok and requested that Nicolas work with him in Chiang Mai.

In fact, they started working in Lampang; but Fr Mirabel recommended that Nicolas work in Lampang and he himself went north to work in Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, Fr Nicolas tried seeking out a number of lapsed Christians. This task was difficult and not highly productive, but very worthwhile.

In their first two years in Chiang Mai, both of them had worked hard, traveling all the time. Meanwhile, Nicolas attempted to follow up the development of his work, and looked for catechists to continue his missionary work in various localities such as Wiang Phrao, Chiang Dao, Wiang Pa Pao, Lampang, Nan, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai till 1936.

Fr Nicolas was then assigned as parish priest of Khorat Church, where his main tasks were catechism and contacting fallen-away Christians. Meanwhile, he was also very concerned about various problems of the Christians. Having spent a reasonable time reflecting, he stated that there were many people instructed for Baptism, but they could not be baptized yet because their faith was not firm enough.

From 1938 on, Fr Nicolas was also assigned to take care of parishioners at Non Kaeo Church. He wrote many letters from both Khorat and Non Kaeo to Bishop Perros. His letters revealed that he was very concerned about the terminology used in the Church's Thai prayers at his time. He was also concerned about his fellow priests and did his best to help them with their financial debts. Due to his constant concern he continued his pastoral work and was arrested In 1941 on charges of "being a fifth columnist for France".

The persecution against Catholicism stemmed from Thai nationalist hostility towards France and the French religion. These factors combined with the rising Thai nationalism at the time, which considered Buddhism as the only Thai religion. The Thai King must also be a professed Buddhist.

Thai nationalism at that time had been very vigorous and did not differentiate France from Catholicism. Therefore, for Thai nationalists Thailand meant only Buddhism. During the Franco-Thai War (beginning on 28 November 1940), it meant being only Thai and Buddhist. Such a situation was disastrous for all Catholics.

The "Thai Blood, Groups" were those who pledged their patriotism by supporting the Government's policy to promote nationalism. Every group member was trained to think that "Catholicism is an alien religion, and the religion of the enemy nation. Those who worship that religion are also the enemy of the nation".

The Thai Blood Groups intended to confront directly the Christian. religion. Thus we can conclude that there was odium fidei, and the result was religious persecution all over Thailand. This hatred of the Catholic faith was the main reason why Nicolas was arrested, accused and sentenced.

Fr Nicolas decided to travel to St Joseph's Church at Ban Han on 11 January 1941, in order to join Fr Ambrosio Kin Minlukun (Protia) who was parish priest of Ban Han Church. But Fr Ambrosio was not there. At Ban Han Church Fr Nicolas called the Catholic parishioners for their night prayers and told them to attend Sunday Mass on the following day, the feast of Epiphany.

On the following day, Sunday, 12 January 1941, Fr Nicolas rang the church bell at 8:30 a.m. to call the Catholic parishioners to celebrate Epiphany. This action led to the arrest of Nicolas and eight other Catholics on the grounds of violating the official ban on ringing Church bells.

Because of anti-Christian hatred, Fr Nicolas was falsely accused, arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. During his detention, he continued his priestly work, teaching catechism to the prisoners and baptizing 68 people, so that the prison authorities were displeased with him. His virtues shown among the prisoners were love, endurance and perseverance. He was worthy of the priesthood. He had no opportunity to pray the Breviary, but he still had the consolation of the Rosary. Finally, because of his great suffering, he fell ill with tuberculosis and died before completing the official sentence of 15 years. His death was directly caused by anti-Christian hatred and was a heroic sacrifice. His death is also a vivid witness of living faith to us.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 March 2000, page 2; 12 April 2000, page 2;
6 September 2000

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