Born December 5, 1881 in Olot (Gerona)
Professed September 11, 1898
Ordained a priest September 30, 1906
Shot October 14, 1936 in Torrelavega (Santander)
Joaquin Gelada was born December 5, 1881, in Olot (Gerona) and was baptized the following day in the parish church of San Esteban. He was confirmed in the same Church on October 11, 1882 by the Bishop of Mallorca. His parents were Don Jerónimo Gelada, a sheep hearder, and Dona Ines Hugas. They had a large family and Joaquin was a twin. His brother Jerome would become a secular priest.
In school he demonstrated qualities, application and obedience. When he was 10 years old, he began studying Latin with Don Bartholomew Jorda. That year a Missionary of the Heart of Mary arrived in Olot searching for missionary vocation. Joaquin and Jerome both entered the Claretian Postulancy of Barbastro in 1892. Midway through the year, Jerome had to return home due to illness and at the end of the year Joaquin returned to Olot, because, according to a report he “shows no signs of a true vocation.” They both continued the three year Humanities and Rhetoric program in the Diocesan seminary of Girona. In August of 1897, Joaquin entered the Claretian Novitiate of Cervera, under the direction of Fr. Antonio Sánchez, who midway through the Novitiate recognized his good character but still doubted his vocation. Joaquin did make his First Profession on September 11, 1898.
He continued his Philosophical studies in Cervera. During the second year he received Tonsure on May 20. 1899. Again his Theological studies would also take place in Cervera. During the second year of Theology, he received the four Minor Orders on February 11, 1902. In the summer of 1904, he moved to Santo Domingo de la Calzada to study Moral Theology. Completing his studies, he received the Subdiaconate on July 1, 1906, and the Diaconate the following week by His Excellency Armengol Coll, Vicar Apostolic of Fernando Poo. He was ordained to the priesthood on September 30, 1906.
In October of that year he was assigned to Aranda de Duero for year of preparation for the ministry. When Father General visited the house of Aranda, he spoke with Father Gelada and asked about his availability for preaching. Father Gelada thought that he would be assigned to America. In January 1907, he wrote to his brother Jerome:
“Having responded that I would do whatever he asked and that he send me wherever it would be best, he left the decisión until the end of summer. You should know that assignments within our province is in the care of the Provincial but from Father General means that America will probably be my destination”… (this might be as a final farewell).
“You can tell our parents, whom I trust they will accept in saintly resignation and joy because of their great virtue and Christianity. This is a sacrifice I made when I received permission to enter in this beloved Congregation. We’ll see you all in heaven.”
However, in mid-January of 1907, he was assigned to Bilbao as a teacher of externs, where he arrived on the 21st. Quite surprised: in August 1908, he was reassigned to Segovia. As he writes to his brother-in-law: “I was asked to prepare two boys in June for examinations and this will take place in September.” In January 1909, he was sent to the Postulancy of Valmaseda (Vizcaya) as a teacher. He enjoyed teaching the seminarians. He felt it was better than teaching day students.
In 1912, he was sent to the Postulancy of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Here he was at ease and showing his qualities as an educator: “… assiduous attendance of four hours of class — to correct compositions and live happy in this life, which hardly any difficulty that God has given me a gift for teaching. In addition with the docility of these students and with its orderly regime…” His working with students would continue until 1924 with hopes of moving to the new school in Castro Urdiales.
Qualities and Virtues
The judgments issued by his formators presented him as a normal person. His Master of Novices considered him to be of good background but lacking confidence. The Prefect of Philosophers was more explicit: applied yet very docile, simple but sometimes withdrawn. Needs to grow in understanding of faith. In Theology, his Prefect wrote: The same minimal qualities but growing. However, he was always a religious observant.
His intellectual qualities were normal. He was a great educator, worker and fulfilled his duty with competence and sacrifice. Had a predilection for the education of poor children who came to him, which is why he was called affectionately the “Abuelazo.” His disciples remember him as the best professor, who knew how to take advantage of extra class. Not favoring students, he educated for science and virtue. He taught with remarkable patience.
We all recall that he was a exempliar religious, very observant of the rules, met with thoroughness, and absolute submission to Superiors. Led a spiritual life. He was very pious, simple and humble.
Dispersion of the community, shelter and martyrdom
On July 22, 1936, he took refuge with the Servants of Jesus, in the house of the gardener, where Father Carrascal was already waiting. The following month they were joined by Brother Barrio. After a few days later they moved into a separate building called “Providence.” Here they continued to follow the religious life with their practices, schedule, silence, fasting and austere life. They even practiced the Spiritual Exercises, with total isolation, without receiving news, as if they were in another world. They were not idle. Father Gelada would do the cleaning. There he felt happy. This time was used to prepare for their martyrdom.
On October 13, they celebrated their last mass. Around 11 in the morning many militia, captained by the ringleaders Segundo Doval, Antonio Fernandez, Manuel Rodriguez, (a) the novelist, Aurelio Ortiz, (a) the son of the mother, and Joseph (a) the chicharrillo, surrounded the entire estate. Two of them went up asking for the three religious by their proper names. Seeing this the Missionaries hurried down a path to the house of the gardener. The militia with pistols in hand went directly to the gardeners house. Father Gelada asked if he could go get some clothes. They were reluctant, but he told them:
Word of honor, I’ll be right back. And they let him.
Then the Sister’s approached him and he gave them absolution. Father Gelada went looking for the other two Claretian’s and the militia made a thorough search of the property. When they took the three missionaries to the choir of the church saying:
We have hunted three birds.
They were taken with the arms held high accompanied by a throng of people. Taken to the prison, which was the convent of the Poor Clares, and thrown into the choir of the Church. On October 14, 1936, at one in the morning, Don Antonio Martínez Arizmendi was forced to drive the car with the three religious and other militia members. During the journey which lasted an hour, the prisoners were insulting and beaten. They bore it with humility and in silence. The missionaries were given a chance if they would change their lives. One of them responded on behalf of the others:
That! Before dying to do what is required of us.
After they arrived at the hermitage of Jesus del Monte. The militia told the three religious to disembark and the driver was told to turn the car around in the direction of Santander. The driver drove about four hundred meters and there he heard a series of shots. The militia threatened to kill him if he revealed something of what happened. What happened was that the prisoners were handed over to another group of militiamen and shot dead near Torrelavega, because their bodies were found on the road of Sierrapando to Talladega, within the Municipality of Torrelavega.
Father Gelada had no documentation, so they pinned a photograph on him. His body was identified because he was wearing the clothes marked with the n. 5. In a pocket they found a rosary, a small pencil, handkerchiefs also marked with the n. 5 and slope of his neck had a crucifix hanging with a string of white metal. He was buried in the cemetery of Torrelavega.