LAST October 28, the biggest beatification ceremony in the Church’s history was celebrated at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

That day, 498 martyrs from the religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War (1933-1937) were beatified in a ceremony presided by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Among the new martyrs were eight Dominicans who had worked or studied in the Philippines; six of them had worked in the University of Santo Tomas.

The lives of the eight Dominican martyrs who had worked in the Philippines are detailed in the short book, The UST Martyrs of the Religious Persecution in Spain (1933-1937), published by the UST Publishing House. Seminarian Noel Vincent Abalajon, now on his sixth year taking up Theology at the UST Central Seminary, helped in the research and the editing of the book. Abalajon, who attended the beatification ceremony in Rome, said that the new beatos are a great source of inspiration and pride for Thomasians.

“They are the reasons why we, Thomasians, should be proud of our University,” Abalajon told the Varsitarian. “They remind us that here in UST, we have produced holy people across the centuries.”

Paragons of Thomasian sanctity

The fact that the UST martyrs have been beatified less than a century after their deaths is another historic milestone for the history-rich UST. The beatification is something all Thomasians should be proud of.

“Sometimes I tremble when I think that some of these holy Thomasians had once walked in the corridors of UST or even prayed in this chapel (the Santissimo Rosario Church),” said Acting Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa during his homily at a High Mass celebrating the newly-beatified Thomasians.

Leading the new Thomasian martyrs is Bl. Buenaventura Garcia Paredes, O.P., who was born to a humble and poor family in the town of Castañeda de Valdes in Spain. In pursuing his priestly vocation, he entered the Dominican school of Corias. Although he had to stop for more than two years because of poverty, Paredes was determined to become a priest.

In 1883, Paredes joined the Order of Preachers. He studied philosophy in the Universities of Valencia and Madrid. He also took up civil law at the University of Salamanca.

Ordained in 1891, Paredes was sent to the Philippines to teach theology in UST, where he was also appointed chair of political and administrative law.

He also edited the Catholic newspaper Libertas, which was published daily by UST.

Returning to Spain after a very successful mission posting in the Philippines, Paredes became the Prior of the Santo Tomas Convent in Avila, Spain in 1901, and in 1910, prior of the Santo Domingo Convent in Ocaña. In the same year, he became Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary until 1917.

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In 1926, Paredes became the Master General of the Dominican Order, a position which he served for two and a half years.

Witnesses to Paredes’ life said that he lived like a saint. As priest and servant of God, he showed a “deep and profound faith” in God. He was forgiving, had the best intentions for people, and was very charitable.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Paredes feared for his life. A friend from the Philippines, Don Pedro Errazquin, tried to help him. But there was no saving him from the religious persecution instigated by the communists.

Paredes hid in a pension house in Madrid, where he was caught by communists on August 10, 1936. He yielded to the arrest with great courage. After two days, his body was found in the suburbs of Madrid. Witnesses were convinced that the priest died in the hands of enemies of religion but with forgiveness and love of God in his heart.

‘Viva Cristo Rey!’

Another martyr, who was known for his strong and temperamental character, is Bl. Jesus Villaverde Andres, O.P.. He had a liver disease which caused him severe headaches, which contributed to his temper.

Andres was born in San Miguel de Dueñas in Spain, but he began his priestly formation in Salamanca. He was ordained priest in 1903 in Avila.

In the Philippines, Andres taught theology and ecclesiastical studies in the Colegio de San Juan de Letran from 1905 to 1910. Then he transferred to UST in 1916, where he became Secretary General (1919-1921), Treasurer (1929-1932), and Dean of the Faculty of Sacred Theology (1932-1934).

From 1921 to 1924, Andres became Rector of Letran Manila. He returned to Spain in 1934 to serve as the Prior of the Santo Tomas Convent in Avila.

During the religious persecution, Andres took refuge in his mother’s house for three months. On October 15, 1936, communist soldiers caught Andres, who was executed for being a true servant of God. His body was never found.

Meanwhile, Bl. Pedro Ibañez Alonso, O.P. studied theology in the University soon after he made his solemn vows on Dec. 8, 1915. Before studying in UST, he studied theology in Rosaryville in Lousiana, USA.

Alonso was ordained priest in 1917 and was later sent to China to do missionary work. However, his poor health disrupted his duties, and he was taken back to Manila. He returned to China in 1919. After five years, Alonso went back to Manila to teach in Colegio de San Jacinto in Tuguegarao for 10 years.

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In 1934, Alonso was transferred to Santo Tomas Convent in Madrid. Communist forces attacked the covent in 1936. Although he managed to escape, hiding in a pension house. Alonso and his fellow religious were executed for their faith on August 26, 1936.

Bl. Manuel Moreno Martinez, O.P., from Rincon de Soto, Spain took moral theology in UST while he was deacon at the Santo Domingo Convent in Manila. He was ordained priest in 1895 and was sent as a missionary to China. His knowledge of Chinese psychology saved him from the wrath of non-Christians Chinese who were eager to destroy Catholic churches in Fookien. He returned to the Philippines in 1911 and was later on assigned as chaplain of the Dominican Sisters in Sta. Rita, Pampanga until 1917. Martinez then returned in Spain and became a member of the Santo Tomas Convent in Avila.

In 1934, Martinez was elected prior of the Santo Domingo Convent in Ocaña. When Communists raided the convent in 1936, he took refuge in the house of his friends. He planned to go to Madrid, where he thought it was safer, but he and two other Dominicans were shot in the Atocha station as they cried, “Viva Cristo Rey!” which means, “Hail, Christ the King.”

Meanwhile, Bl. Maximino Fernandez Marinas, O.P., experienced the wrath of the Philippine Revolution before dying in the religious persecution in Spain.

After his solemn Dominican vows in 1888, Marinas came to the Philippines.

In UST, he studied theology and philosophy until he was ordained priest at the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros in 1893. In 1896, he became the parish priest of Alcala and was later moved to Sanchez-Mira, both towns in Cagayan. There, the Katipuneros caught him in 1898. He was transferred to Ilocos with other Spanish priests. Although no direct harm was reportedly inflicted on them, they were forced by the Katipunerous to walk and Marinas suffered diarrhea on their way to Nueva Ecija. Authorities intervened with the Katipuneros to set the priests free in 1899.

In 1902, the priest was able to return to Spain.

Marinas was sent to Rome at the end of 1919 as the Syndic of the House of the Holy Trinity. In 1922, he returned to Ocaña, Spain. Four years later, he was appointed chaplain of the Dominican Sisters of St. Agnes in Zaragosa, Spain.

In July 1936, Communists stormed Marinas’ convent in Ocaña. Marinas was shot together with Martinez at the Atocha train station. Although he survived the 11 gunshots in his body, he was abandoned and mocked by the medical staff of a hospital, where he was left to die.

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Bl. Jose Maria Lopez Carillo, O.P., grew up with his uncle and aunt, who was with the Third Order of Dominicans. His reared him to grow with the love of God. He studied at the Santo Domingo College in Ocaña until he took his habit at the Santo Tomas Convent in Avila in 1910.

Carillo was sent to Rosaryville in Louisiana, USA to study philosophy and theology. There he was ordained as deacon. But he completed his theology in UST, where he was ordained priest in 1919. He was sent in China for missionary work until 1935, when he returned to Spain.

Carillo returned to Ocaña to recover from a sickness. Unfortunately, their convent in Ocaña was attacked by Communists in 1936. He escaped together with Bl. Alonso and took refuge at the same pension house until Aug. 26 of that year. The next day, the two were executed with other religious.

According to Fr. Pedro Tejero, O.P., spiritual director of the UST Central Seminary, the martyrs of UST should be emulated by Thomasians and all Filipino Catholics.

“They are models of fortitude in faith during times of materialism and forgetfulness of God,” Tejero told the Varsitarian.

Glorious men of UST

A month after the historic beatification, UST celebrated the beatification of her alumni with a Mass presided by Fr. Lucio Gutierrez, O.P. last Nov. 29 at the Santissimo Rosario Parish.

De la Rosa, who was homilist in the Mass, commended the achievements of UST in producing top-caliber alumni in various fields, including those proclaimed by the Catholic Church as “blessed.”

He said Thomasians should ask for the grace that would enable them to emulate the faith of the martyrs.

“We are not holding this mass in order to indulge in self-congratulations, not even to glorify or honor these martyrs, because there is no need to do that,” De la Rosa said. “The Church has already given them the highest honors.”

Together with Fr. Inocencio Garcia Diez, O.P. and Fr. Antonio Varona Ortega, O.P., Spanish Dominicans who had worked in the Philippines before their martyrdom, the newly beatified Thomasian martyrs compose the eight martyr Dominicans of the Province of the Holy Rosary, who had either taught or studied in the Philippines before returning to Spain and meeting their heroic and glorious deaths in the 1930s. Levine Andro H. Lao and Nathaniel R. Melican

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