Juan Maria Alsina Ferrer

Ferrer Jose

Born October 5, 1874 in Seva (Barcelona)

Professed December 8, 1900

Ordained a priest December 22, 1907

Shot September 16, 1936 in Castellvell del Vilar (Barcelona)

 

Juan Alsina Ferrer was born in Seva, in the province and Diocese of Vic on September 5, 1874, to a large family of nine brothers. His parents were Don José Alsina, a field hand and Mrs. Rosa Ferrer. He was baptized the following day in the parish church of Santa Maria de Seva.

 

He entered the Congregation on October 3, 1899, in Cervera. On December 7, 1899, he began his Novitiate year and would make his First Profession on December 8, 1900. His Novice Master was Father Crispiniano Garcia.  He studied Philosophy and Dogmatic Theology at the University of Cervera and excelled in his studies. This is why he would say: the Theology of San Isidro more than Santo Tomas. In the summer of 1906, he moved to Alagon to study Moral Theology. He received Tonsure on November 2, 1902. On July 17, 1904, in Cervera he received the Minor Orders from His Excellency Armengol (Peter) Coll, Vicar Apostolic of Fernando Poo. This same Bishop conferred the Subdiaconate on April 28, 1907, in Alagon. The Diaconate and Priesthood was confered by His Excellency John Soldevila, Archbishop of Zaragoza on December 21 and 22, 1907. In the summer of 1908, he was assigned to Aranda de Duero to prepare for the ministry.

 

His first assignment was to Cervera, as Minister. In 1911, he moved to Olesa de Montserrat and from there to the House of Gracia in Barcelona in 1920. The following year he would return to Cervera.  Here he had some problems with authority for smoking and other minor criticisms. His Superiors view him as a bit rustic. In 1926, the new Superior reported to the Provincial Government that Father Alsina shouldn’t be questioned because of his robust health. Father Alsina was a good preacher. His dedicated efforts and ingenuity to collect alms for the votive temple in Rome with medals, scapulars, rosaries and other objects was admirable. Fr. Felipe Maroto commented on his creativity. He was a popular preacher being simple and clear, but with great emotional expressions. His tongue was Catalan and rarely preached in Spanish. “The Provincial, Mariano Fernández always encouraged him to learn Spanish… Many years later he would only preach in the Spanish language, because students and brothers lived a universal vocation to listen to their Superiors.”

 

He was fond of literature and liturgy. He was a teacher of rubrics in the conferences with parents. Some commented that if he had studied liturgy, he would have been exceptional. He had a taste in liturgical style. He received several awards for literary compositions, signed under the pseudonym Alanis.

 

Qualities. His Master of Novice pointed out that he was very healthy, talented, although untapped, and docile, virtuous and respectful. Subsequent reports, for example from 1930, judged him as intrusive, unobservant and crafty. A subsequent report improved a little in all aspects. He was a man of great faith. Had the strong view of farmers, which offset his defects. Very devoted of the holy rosary. Simple.

 

Martyrdom

Father Alsina, like most of the community of Cervera, left the former University on July 21, 1936, in the direction of Solsona, but when stopped in Tora, he chose to stay in San Ramon. The next day, together with Father’s Leache and Martija; students Perich and Font and a group of Postulants, they went to Castell de Santa Maria. On July 24, some members of the Committee of Cervera arrived and took the Postulants. The missionaries were left alone. The next day, the owner of the house where they had taken refuge received notice from the Committee of San Ramon saying they knew about the missionaries and threaten him. The missionaries decided to leave. Shortly before, Brother Guiu of Mas Claret arrived and informed them of the persecutions that had taken place. They decided to leave immediately, each in their own direction.

 

Arrest and detention

Father’s Leache and Martija tried to pass through the front so they could get to Navarre. The students went to Cervera to catch the train to Manresa hoping to get home. Father Alsina also boarded the train in San Ramon in the direction of Manresa. At the police station, the students were asked twice for documentation that they had or they would be arrested. Then they found Father Alsina who was also arrested on the train. The police handed Father Alsina over to the committee, where he was led to the Casino, where the Central Committee had gathered. At four in the morning, after a brief trial, the President sent the three of them to prison. Father Alsina was carrying a suitcase with medals and rosaries and the tools to make them. He lost everything when he entered the prison.

 

On July 27, 1936, Father Alsina and the students Perich and Font were in prison. In prison they were placed on the ground floor in a room that served for everyone and everything. During recreation time, they were permitted to interact with the prisoners from the upper floor. The atmosphere of the prison seemed quiet in the midst of adverse circumstances because the prisoners were resigned to die. According to witnesses, Father Alsina was not afraid of death. Father Alsina prepared the food for his two companions, but they also shared the food from other prisoners brought by their families. Father Alsina wore a Crucifix that the others saw. The missionaries continued with community prayers when possible. On the second day the prisoners on the lower floor prayed the rosary led by Father Alsina. He would also give talks on religion in an informal way so as to converse with the other prisoners. These men remembered him as a very fervent man. The prisoners treated each other as condemned companions, comforting each other if it was possible. Fear would grow when they learned that other prisoners had been killed. They didn’t always noticed when someone was taken out of jail or where they were going. This was the case with Father Alsina.

 

The day or night was unknown when he taken out of the prison and shot. A witness who got out of jail on September 22nd, claims that Father Alsina was there. The day he was shot had to be later. But other witnesses as the undertaker, Jose Maria Arrieta, the District Court Secretary and sheriff of Castellvell del Vilar, Augustine Gost, provided data that helped give a date. The Death Certificate certifies that he “died between kilometer four and five of the provincial Esparraguera road to Manresa on the evening of September 16, (no time given)… as a result of wounds caused by a firearm.”

Mr. Augustine Gost declares that in mid-September of 1936, he received a telephone call from the Neighborhood of Bores, around eleven o’clock at night made by individuals of the Committee, who controlled that neighborhood. The notice said that on the road from the neighborhood to Rellinas and Terrassa, three bodies were collected and taken to the cemetery. The following morning the gravedigger, Mr. José María Arrieta, arranged for a vehicle and staff to take the bodies to the cemetery. He collected the bodies in the morning and found three more by the the cemetery.

 

Among the first three was the corpse of Father Alsina. He had a letter addressed to him on his body and another where he was writing his last name. They also found some objects. Among the objects that they found the corpse of Father Alsina are a sheet of tin full of cigarettes, two booklets of smoking brand Jean paper, a lighter… a box of tin that contains stones for lighting. It is seen that the habit of smoking never went away. This had to be providential for the recognition of the body. They also found in his pocket a needle and thread (customs of some friars at the time), a few silver coins, a white handkerchief with some initial. Also the underwear was marked with numbers. The body had a bullet wound in the heart. He had also been struck with a terrible blow to the head, so hard that his brains were visible.  The body was buried in the town cemetery.