Born March 1, 1873 in Puigpelat (Tarragona)
Professed July 27, 1902
Ordained a priest June 12, 1897
Shot August 31, 1936 in San Pedro dels Arquells (Lérida)
Fr Juan Blanch was born on March 1, 1873, in Puigpelat (Tarragona) and was baptized the following day in the parish Church of Santa Maria of the Municipality. Four years later he was Confirmed by the Archbishop of the Diocese during the pastoral visitation. His parents were José Blanch, a laborer and Mrs. Paula Badia. They had six children, three of which died very early. They were very religious and complied with their obligations and were joyful by the priestly vocation of their son.
His Ecclesiastical career began in the Pontifical Seminary of Tarragona, where he arrived when he was eleven years old. Due to lack of funding, his parents could only afford a lower level of studies for their son. Father Francisco Cases was his Philosophy professor of Logic and Spiritual Director. In August 1892, he suffered a gastric catarrh which caused the doctor to send him home. The doctor believed he would have a better diet at home.
On June 12, 1897, he was ordained a Priest. His first assignment was as Associate Priest in Gratallps where he was little more than a year. He would then move to La Febro as Treasurer. In 1900, during the pastoral visit of Archbishop Costa Formaguera, he expressed his desire to become a religious. From there he was transferred to San Antonio de Valls, as Vicar. Here his religious vocation matured.
On June 15, 1901, he entered the Claretian Novitiate in Cervera. Shortly after the Novitiate was moved to Vic, where he made is First Profession on July 27, 1902.
His first assignment as a Claretian was in the community of Vic as a preacher. There he remained in Vic until the end of December 1907, where he was transferred to Solsona as Superior. Taking on this responsibility, he encountered a variety of challenges. In August of 1913, while preaching in Serrateix, he contracted a deadly disease in which he had to receive Holy Viaticum.
Once he recovered from the disease in October of that year, he went to Barcelona to take the office as Superior. Subsequently, in September 1918, he would move onto San Feliu de Guixols as Superior of the new foundation. This foundation was expected to “awaken the faith where all seemed to have disappeared. These people who seemed more concerned with money and turn their back to heaven.
What do you want in the end? A heart protect us by giving us a Church and home. Then you can safely make a prognosis.” Three years after the foundation they continued without church and home. Father Blanch urged the Superiors to move the community to Gerona which was more central and where they could develop a greater amount of ministries since in San Feliu the spiritual fruits just didn’t seem to grow. Finally, on August 4, 1924, after a number of projects, they were able to buy some land in Girona. On September 6, 1924, the new community was established in Girona with Father Blanch as Superior, and the following year he would become Province Consultant. In 1928, he was appointed Superior of the community of Girona.
In 1932, he was assigned to the community of Gracia as a Consultant and in 1934, he was appointed Superior of the community in Tarragona.
Qualities and virtues
He had a temper and yet at times quiet, peaceful, modest and well spoken. In dealing with his peers, he tended to be affable and affectionate.
He had real gift in the preaching, excelling in teaching doctrine to the faithful. Great preacher of popular missions.
Very good religious of exemplary conduct. He is also distinguished for his prudence in the office.
Arrest and martyrdom
On July 20, 1936, he moved through Cervera on his way to Guisona where he was to preach a novena. He went to greet the family of Father Lloses and then to the former University where he was with the community of the Missionaries. The next day went to preach in Guisona, but was arrested and brought to the home of the Lloses family. Since the community had been dispersed, he was ordered not to move from there.
In the home of the Lloses family, Father Blanch dedicated his time to prayer, recitation of the Rosary and teaching the children of the house to pray and the catechism. Every day led the Rosary as a family. At this time, he had an idea of marching to his hometown, but the militiant Vilalta dissuaded him. The owner made him a secular suit so that he could leave without being recognized, but this did not happen. He was serene and convinced that he wouldn’t lose his life of Cervera. Although he had taken the necessary precautions, the priest was controlled by the Revolutionary committee, and then came the usual registration and investigation.
Toward eleven in the evening of August 31st, a patrol arrived at the house of Lloses searching for Blanch and the owner. The tragic scene affected the family and made Mr. Lloses lose his senses. The Reds helped him down the stairs. In the street, seen that they showed no compassion to his benefactor, Father Blanch told them:
Kill me if you want, but let this poor father of a family go.
The two were brought to the Committee and there sentenced to death. They were taken in an auto which some saw and they were shot in a embankment on the Madrid-Barcelona road in the Municipality of San Pedro dels Arquells. Then the bodies were set afire. The remains that they were able to gather by friends of the family were placed in a niche of the family in the cemetery of the city of Cervera.