Born October 14, 1874 in Albiñana (Tarragona)
Professed September 15, 1895
Ordained a priest December 19, 1903
Shot July 25, 1936 in Sallent
Fr. Juan was born on October 14, 1874, in Albiñana (Tarragona) and baptized the following day in the parish Church of San Bartolome of the Diocese of Barcelona. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation on July 30, 1879, by the Bishop of Barcelona. His parents were Don Antonio Mercer, a laborer and Dona Antonia Soler who was a homemaker. They had a large family. They gave their children a Christian education as it was customary at that time.
He entered the Seminary of Barcelona in 1889, where he completed the year of preparation and the first year of Humanities.
He entered the Congregation on August 1891, in the Claretian Seminary of Barbastro and for three years studied Humanities. His academic qualifications were good, outstanding behavior and in application.
He moved on to Cervera for the Novitiate. He began the Novitiate on September 14, 1894, under the direction of Fr. Antonio Sanchez del Val and made his First Profession on September 15, 1892. Then he studied Philosophy at Cervera. On November 11, 1895, he received Tonsure from the Apostolic Administrator of Solsona.
In the summer of 1898, he went to Santo Domingo de la Calzada to study Dogmatic and Moral Theology. His intellectual qualities were average while his behavior and application were outstanding. In October 1899, he received the four Minor Orders. Also in Santo Domingo, he received the Subdiaconate in July and the Diaconate in September of 1903 from the Archbishop of Burgos. On December 19, 1903, he was ordained a Priest in Burgos by the Archbishop of the Diocese.
In accordance with the preparation by the Superiors, he was assigned to the houses where his main occupation was in the apostolic ministry. So he was sent to La Selva de Campo, Cervera, Vic, Sabadell, Lleida, Berga and Sallent. He did spend more time was in La Selva de Campo. While in Vic in 1908, he wrote to his sister Dolores: “And soon, according to a well-founded information, it appears that obedience will send me to a far away land.” But there was no such destination or assignment to America. In this time he had frequent communication corresponding with his sister Dolores and writing of the possible entry into Religion. From Vic he would move to Sabadell in 1909, with the responsibility as house Minister. In all the communities he devoted himself to the ministry of preaching and of being a confessor. In Berga, he served as Minister or bursar. In Sallent which would be his last destination, his assignment began with the changes of 1934. There he was surprised by the outbreak of the Revolution.
Father Mercer was an exemplary religious, observant of the holy Constitutions. Obedient to the superiors and always ready to fulfill the will of God. He was a simple man.
Father Mercer had the utmost confidence in Divine Providence which had helped him escape from many dangers such as in June 27, 1936.
On July 20th, together with Brother Mur, they left the mission house of Sallent and took refuge in the Calle Salmerón, where they remained until the 24th, in the afternoon. Then, to avoid problems for the family where they were staying, they left the house where they were hiding to flee to Sallent but in the street they were recognized by the Reds, who with great jubilation shouted Priests! Priests! A large group gathered which insulted and beat mercilessly the missionaries. Soon a patrol of Revolutionaries arrived who led them in detention to the Town Council, where they encountered Father Payas. Shortly after Brother Binefa was caught. They all were subjected to interrogation. All stated that they were religious missionaries of the Heart of Mary. This statement earned them a death sentence. They heard with resignation their fate and accepted with courage.
Hearing the death sentence, Father Payas addressed the committee asking them that no other people should suffer because of them, especially the families who had taken them into their homes.
That same night of July 25, 1936, they were taken to the esplanade of the cemetery to be shot. When they were standing in a row, Father Payas said:
I would like to bless you before I die and raising his arm to the booming sound of the shots from the killers that prevented him from completing the blessing. The four were buried in a common grave in the cemetery of Sallent. The gravedigger, Mr. Pedro Miralda Torruella, had the foresight to note in an address book, the order of placement and the personal data of each one so that might facilitate the identification in case someone else would be buried in the same pit with the missionaries.