COMMUNITY OF VIC AND SALLENT

The political situation and religious persecution

The city of Vic is located to the north of Barcelona. It is about 50 kilometers away and the town of Sallent is to the west of Vic. The Spanish Marxist Revolution development in these cities as in Barcelona were implimented contrary to the principles of the Gospel. The leaders of this Revolution were the same as those of the nation that had given laws with the intention of making life impossible for the Church, even with the hope of making it disappear. Their leaders had proclaimed countless times the incompatibility of this revolutionary system with the Church.

As has been said earlier, the city of Vic suffered the consequences of the Tragic Week in Barcelona and all the Revolutionary movements of the 20th century. Why would one not be surprised if Vic would not follow the same fate as Barcelona. For these reasons the Marxist Revolution was organized in the same way. These leaders acted with hatred and bigotry.

In the afternoon of July 19, 1936, the anti-fascist liaison committee was organized by an Left-wing party of the Popular Front. The representative of the IAF, Francisco Freixenet was appointed as Chairman. The next day some trucks arrived with armed militia which were rejected by the Guardia Civil. But that night, the anti-fascist committee imposed their authority over the Town Council, expelling all Public Office leaders who were not sympathetic to the left or the right. These measures of control and hatred caught the wealthy, religious and those to the right completely off guard.

On the 21st, new trucks with armed militia from Barcelona disarmed the Guardia Civil. From that moment, they begin to confiscate and burn homes and churches.

The religious persecution in Vic reached gigantic proportions. Following the implimentations in other places, the hordes of Marxists began with the burning of churches, convents, images and other objects of worship as well as public and private devotion. The Revolutionaries tested the fires with the burning of the Cathedral with huge losses, the churches of the Franciscans, Capuchins, Poor Clares, etc… It also included the Episcopal palace, museum and Conciliar Seminary. Some of the structures were destroyed to the ground. They also prepared campfires or bonfires, which lasted days with images, some of great veneration, ornaments and pictures that were plucked with violence and abused individuals, while the mob had fun shouting profanity and sarcasm.

 

Within four months, the situation of the churches in summary was the following:

– Cathedral: burned and destroyed;

– Santa Clara and La Merced: the structures collapsed:

– Church and Monastery of El Escorial: committee and store for provisions;

– Colegio de San José (The Panissa): became workshop of tinsmiths and hydraulics;

– Church of San Justo (seminar): store of requisitions;

– Parish Church of Santo Domingo: Agricultural Union for the County;

– Church of the Third Order: workshop of artists;

– Church of the Hospital: storage center for straw and alfalfa;

– Church of Santa Teresa: storage facility for potatoes;

– Church of Carmen: Center for bricklayers and laborers;

– Church of Mercy: Center for plasterers;

– Church of the Sacramentine Nuns: workshop of shoemakers;

– Church of the Sacred Heart: barracks of the militia;

– Church of the Capuchins: blocks and urban sanitation garage.

 

With regard to the Claretian Missionaries, the persecutors broke into the old convent of La Merced, the Motherhouse of the Claretian Congregation with the cry of War to God! With such an antireligious idea, they set fire to the Church and Convent and smashed the adjoining house of Spiritual Exercises. They collected crucifixes and pictures of the Virgin in the presiding rooms and everything was thrown through the windows to do more damage. After they demolished the walls of the Church to the ground.

In spite of everything, the strongest hatred was directed to destroying and annihilate the body and other relics of Blessed Anthony Mary Claret, which were being preserved on the grounds. The human prudence and providence hindered their ability to execute all their plans due to the lack of time. Unfortunately the relic of the heart of Blessed Claret fell into the hands of someone and disappeared forever.

To proceed it began with the persecution and murder of people. First hand was to get rid of the clergy and religious. Secondly, were the people of different political parties and fervent Christians.

On the other hand, the cities with large number of clergy, religious and those considered with a religious bent were at a disadvantage. In small towns where everyone seemed to know each other, proved to be a challenge for some people. In a town like Sallent anonymity is impossible. For this reason, one could hardly find refuge who came from the outside.

Something similar happened in Sallent. At a certain point everything seemed calm, as Father Surribas wrote to his mother on July 26, 1934:

“Don’t become anxious about the misfortunes of the Revolutionaries of Sallent. We are well defended by the Civil Guards, guards assault and Somatenes; most of the Revolutionaries are in potash mines which are far away from our house.

Fr. Claret protects us from heaven.”

 

Here the anger of the Marxist were bait against churches, but these revolutionaries had no pity in the monument that the name of Father Claret was mentioned and it was at this time they began persecuting the clergy and religious.

 

The community of Vic

 

In the Diocese of Vic, the Claretian Congregation had three houses in 1936: 1) the community of Vic; 2) the community of Sallent; 3) the property of Mas Claret located in the parish of San Pedro dels Arquells, which was a smaller community where priest would serve and assisted the larger community of the University of Cervera. For this reason, the latter will be treated along with the house of Cervera.

The community of Vic was the Motherhouse of the Institute. It was also the place of the relics of the Holy Founder. There was the body of Blessed Anthony Mary Claret, Founder of the Congregation with all the documents and memories about the Institute. The Novitiate was also located in Vic at the outbreak of the Marxist Revolution. These aspects allow us to understand the importance that this community had for the Congregation.

 

Members of the community

In the month of July 1936, the following individuals formed the house.

Fr. Mamuel Mascaró Borrás, Superior

Fr. Pablo Aguadé Gatell, Consultor

Fr. José Arner Margalef, Consultor y Master of Novices

Fr. Joaquín Pujol Illamola, House Minister

Fr. Jacinto Tordelespar Guiteras

Fr. José Puigdessens Pujol

Fr. Juan Arqués Arrufat

Fr. Antonio Miró Oller

Fr. Agustín Riu Riu

Fr. Mariano Brossa Betés

Fr. Pedro Bertrans Porti

Fr. Juan Codinach Espinalt

Fr. Casto Navarro Martínez

Fr. Vicente Codina Martí

Fr.  Ángel Roca Hugas

Fr. Tomás Luis Pujadas Roca

Mr. Elías Valcanera Martínez

Br. Miguel Facerías Garcés

Br. José Casals Badía

Br. Ciriaco García López

Br. Isidro Costa Arnaus

Br. Juan Riera Paradell

Br. Ángel Dolcet Agustí

Br. Antonio Arrufat Sorribes

Br. José Cochs Llauradó

Br. Antonio Miarnau Pardell

Br. Feliciano Rodríguez Rodríguez

Br. Joaquín Romaguera Vila

 

Students from Argentina

Florentino Pedro González López

Juan Bautista Agú Río

Valentín Til Aranda

Enrique Servi Lori

José Ventura Widmann Abaca

 

Novices

José Mª Alonso Lobo

Martin  Alsina Perarnau

Antonio Arner Badía

Ramón Casademont Vila

Jacinto Casamitjana Coromina

Miguel Cisteró Cisteró

Pedro Fernández García

Jesús Marcer Mestre

Nicasio Martínez Jarauta

José Pallarés Vinyas

Antonio Planas Guiu

Jesús Planas Guiu

Antonio Poch Nin

Florencio Romero Hermández

José Mª Tolosa Armengol

Antonio Tuñón Álvarez

Fernando Valenciano García

José Mª Viñas Colomer

 

Brother Novices

Antonio Castells Lamora

Domingo Rubiella Galbás

 

There were also 9 students Postulants and two brothers Postulants who were sent home.

 

  1. The concealment of the body of Father Claret and the dispersion of the community

On July 13, 1936, Calvo Sotelo, a member of the opposition was murdered by public order on the Leftist party. This action gave most of the people the impression that the revolution was imminent. For this reason, the Claretins had the file documents removed and the main relic of the Blessed Anthony Mary Claret were hidden. The question was raised about the Bishop who spoke good words, but only words. Sadly, he didn’t believe in the imminence of a castastrofe.

In the community, the information which was provided by friends and radio stations gave the worse senerio. On the morning of July 20, 1936, Father Superior telephoned to the headquarters of the Guardia Civil and was told by the commander:

Priests, be calm. As long as the Civil Guard is here, there will be order in Vic.

 

Father Superior had given the order not to lower the blinds. This order had come from the Civil authority or of a committee member. After eating, the priests saw from the library that some trucks arrived full of militia with rifle in hand and fists shaking. They prayed the rosary and the Superior gave everyone permission to leave the house in hopes of finding safety. While the Novices were in study hall that afternoon, the Master ordered them to prepare themselves to go out for a walk immediately. This was a habit. The priests were going out in groups.

At three in the afternoon, Fr. Bertrams, the Vice Postulator and guardian of the tomb called Father Thomas Pujadas about saving the sacred body of Blessed Claret. Also present was Father Miguel Codina. Father Mariano Brossa had gone to ask for permission from the Prelate and would come back hoping everything ready: one pair of pliers to break the seal, a sheet of from the altar to hold the corpse once removed from the casket box and a large case to carry the corpse to the hiding place. They decided that the corpse would be hidden in the home of a carpenter by the name of Mr Michael Bantula. But Father Brossa was taking too long and the marauding militia brought tension and fear. There was a coup d’état of cylinder rifles pounding at the door of the Church and they had to make an urgent decision. “We knew that breaking the seal without Episcopal authorization of the Prelate entailed excommunication, but we understood that these legal acts didn’t take an emergency into consideration. We felt the only option was to charge myself with excommunication, cut the seals, while collaborating the other two priests. We took the body of the blessed Founder and wrapped him with the cloth of the altar. We carried it to the sacristy where Mr Bantula was waiting with Fr Paul Aguadé, and we place the body in a large box.”

At that moment Father Brossa arrived accompanied by the Pro-Vicar of Bishop. He had obtained the authorization of the Bishop, who wanted to call an Ecclesiastical tribunal, but was convinced by the priest that there was no time, and appointed this notary and delegated the Pro-Vicar General as the President and Father’s Aguadé and Pujadas as witnesses.

Once the body was identified, they closed the drawer and placed the seals. After everyone made an oath of secrecy about the whereabouts of the body. Mr. Bantula, “defying the danger, around six in the evening, he wrapped the box with a blanket and placed it in a work cart. He left the convent by the main door without any question. How was it possible that no militia member was around? … Mr. Bantula buried the sacred treasure in his home aware of the danger that he and his family risked.

On the night of the 20th to 21st, all was quiet in Vic. With the triumph of the Popular Front in Barcelona things would change rapidly. “The radio of the Generalitat was proclaiming the Marxist revolution with a virulence. The 21st, would prove to be catastrophic. The Marxist condemned the religion and promised to wipe it out.

In the morning the city was still progressing quiet. A telephone call from the commander of the post to Father Superior:

“Father, forgive me, but we are forced to go to Barcelona… Vic is at the mercy of the Revolutionaries… We will not be able to defend you or defend the order or security… As a friend, I advise you to save yourselves… May God save Spain… Start praying.”

 

On the 21st, the community still had lunch as usual, but was startled by a shot close to the windows. Then they were able to see new trucks loaded with navy men. They prayed the final rosary in community and began the dispersion to families that they offered refuge.

 

The community of Sallent

 

The town of Sallent is 15 kilometers north of Manresa and is the birthplace of St. Anthony Mary Claret, founder of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was a mining and manufacturing center, which had quite a few workers coming from other areas and creating a conflictual social climate because they were intoxicated by leaders desiring to create turmoil.

The Claretian community were responsable for the the family home of Father Claret since 1920. In 1935, they accepted a school which was located at the local parish some distance from the house, which did not hinder the continuous comings and goings of the priest who were teachers. They decided to make the school headquarters in the building adjacent to the house. This was promoted by the Superior. Once the building was purchased and accommodated to the needs of the school, they began classes. This was a new ministry of service in the town.

The acceptance of the college was due to several reasons. First, was the request of the Bishop to fill a need. Second, at the insistence of the families to have a school where an integral formation program was possible. Third, a form of apostolate, as it was the only school in the town where catechism was taught. It was a huge success as evidenced by the fact that it was unable to meet all the demands for lack of space.

In the early summer of 1936, the community was formed by the following individuals:

Fr. José Capdevila, Superior

Fr. Jacinto Blanch Casas, Consultor [1]

Fr. Juan Mercer, Consultor

Fr. Jaime Payás, Minister

Br. Marcelino Mur

Br. Mariano Binefa

The February elections in Sallent were won by the Left Movement with a good margin but it seems that this didn’t alarm anyone of the Claretian community.

The truth is that from these elections the revolution was beginning to surface. A example: There was a demonstration before the City Council asking the Inspector not to close the school because it had all the legal permits. The Missionaries had all their documents but before it was over another Leftists group changed the previous orders.

Father Payas wrote to his mother and sisters shortly after: “I am writing to tell you not to be afraid. Thanks to God, there isn’t any kind of danger.

Here the Leftist won by more than 800 votes, but I repeat, do not fear anything for me. If God does not want, things won’t change. And we are all in the hands of God. It could be that we would be prohibit from teaching in the school but nothing more.”

 

At eight in the morning on July 20th, when he finished the last Mass in the chapel, some militia arrived to search the house and the chapel. The record was closely scrutinized by all the militia units and they withdrew without finding any weapons.

At noon, the Town Council did notify the priests that there was a need to immediately leave the house to avoid any mishaps. At this time in the community had five individuals.

On the whole, the victims of the two communities numbered eighteen, but it is possible to present evidence of the death of 15 members. Brothers José Cochs Llauradó and Feliciano Rodriguez Rodriguez and the student Novice Jacinto Casamitjana Coromina were unaccounted due to the Revolution and disappearance of many missionaries.

[1] Se hallaba fuera de casa el día 20 de julio circunstancialmente.