- The Political Situation
In 1935, the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had four communities in the Province of Valencia, namely: Valencia, El Grao, Requena, and Jativa. El Grao was a school of patronage for sons of workers, opened in 1935, and presided over by Don Enrique Vallbona. The Fathers resided on St. Vincent Street and went to school every day. But as this became very difficult, they began to suffer. They decided to live in the Center. By mid-1936, only the Valencia residence was open because they was forced to close the others because of political and social circumstances.
To better illustrate the situation and make it more alive, we follow the testimonies of the missionaries themselves. Some have been noted earlier. Now we make mention of the most immediate.
The situation of Requena, shortly after the revolt of Asturias, as told by Father Marceliano Alonso Santamaria: “In any case they have reinforced the Civil Guard which was very numerous. And at this time they are watching the many highways that pass through Requena. The other day I was talking to a Civil Guard who has his little son in our school and he told me that we had no danger here; the most they do is put some sign on the walls and at night, as verified by days gone by. Now that I believe that if the Revolutionaries succeed in Valencia, we should be able to get here soon…, a distance of 75 km. Valencia and Requena being an important city and with excellent communications.” But in the same, it indicates that the same Civil Guard informed him that the Fathers had been denounced by playing to the target in the patio with rifles, by people who never have touched them. Bad omen.
In the house of Játiva (Father Codina Picassó)
In Játiva they built a collegiate pavilion for 400 children, which was inaugurated in September 1935, to begin the program under the direction of Fr. Gordon, but they could not finish the program.
In Valencia, the political and social situation that was created after the elections of February 1936, was very tense which can in fact be considered as the beginning of the Revolution and religious persecution. In effect, the day after the elections, “on Monday there were moments of alarm so that many people crowded in the main square, but the tempers were calmed and there was only one explosion in the prison that burned, and where the prisoners defended themselves against the shots of the troops with two soldiers dying. The Civil Guards with cannon and the army with guns have kept the order very well…
The nuns have left their convents and some friars also … Many religious and priests are dressed in secular clothes…
On February 19, 1936, three days after the elections, the members of the community of Requena had to leave the house and flee to Valencia taking advantage of the darkness, because in the town a street demonstration was going to take place and it was convenient that no one “Provoke” the people with their presence. The demonstration unfolded without incident and the community was able to return on the 22nd and resume its activity.
The community of Valencia, also marched outside on the 20th:
“On the Thursday following the elections, we had to leave this little spot where we are, in the direction of a nearby village called” Masarrochos “(how nice!) To stay in a summer house of a friend of ours. There we stayed for about five or six days. All dressed up as civilians, except the one who writes, has not removed the cassock, thank God, if it was not for sleeping, and even this last one not every night, because two nights I slept on a sofa, we spent a few days very happy.
They were with us the fathers of Requena. Why don’t we go out? It is because of fear. It was prudence. From two months or more before the elections, a Communist center was located two steps from our patio. In this Center a multitude of malcarados men met, who disputed and shouted until they quarreled with each other and above all lounged, playing in front of our chapel. Where would they get money to pay for the paper for so many workers? Because I suppose they would not stop eating, just as they stopped working! How do the children of darkness move more than the children of light!
Well, the fact was that every day these gentlemen watched the friars pass by and touch the bell of the chapel … etc. When they attained the electoral triumph, rumors began … etc … etc. And for the peace of all, the neighbors, the owner of the house, and for ourselves, we decided to leave.”
As early as March of that year, due to the events taking place, the Provincial Superior in agreement with the Superiors, decided to dissolve the Claretian communities of Játiva and Requena, dispersing their members to other communities. Some were sent to the communities of Valencia as the Fathers Ignacio Gordon, Superior of Játiva, and Tomás Galipienzo, of Requena.
But the following April, it appeared the fires of hell broke: “In Requena they have cast our Fathers, the Dominican Fathers and the Augustinian Nuns and have burned all the furniture … the community have been dissolved. The first few days the Fathers were here but now they are gone.
Our Fathers also had to leave in Játiva …” This is described by Fr. Gordon, Superior of Játiva, to his sister Fernanda on May 29, 1936:
“The thing about Jativa is now evil. The other day we were already urged to sell the pavilion or have it seized. I had to dress in plain clothes and protest at the inspection. I got the message right, because the thing has been suspended. I suffered a lot. I did not have a hat, but a cap that Father Superior let me wear and Father Pujadas lent me his black fungus that removes the insults. On the street it seemed to me that everyone was looking at me and when I arrived at the Inspection a friend told me that I looked like a bullfighter. I bought for three pesetas, two things that I liked a lot and that turned out to be German with the Hitler cross. They soon put me in jail for Fascism.”
This situation in the Valencian province was synthesized by Fr. Marceliano Alonso in a letter written to his parents on June 4, 1936 with simplicity as follows:
“Well here in Valencia we are very well, very calm and with a lot of work. In the province they have committed barbarities as in few parts of Spain; There are cities where all the churches have been burned: in Alcira 12; In Cartagente they desecrated the tombs of a convent of Nuns; In Mexico there have been 32 deaths and 30 wounded; In short, there are many people without a Church and many more without priests; Valencia has had to receive hundreds of persecuted families; So that we are no longer just priests and friars.”
Things went from bad to worse and the national situation became chaotic. The tragic hours arrived with the fires and first gun shots.
It is estimated that in the Valencian region some 40,000 Catholics were shot, perhaps more. There were more than 300 executions a day.
- The Community
When the Civil War broke on July 18, 1936, the only house that remained open was the Residencia de la Calle de San Vicente, n. 163, 2º, on the outskirts of Valencia, founded just a year before, with the legal category of residence, with two Fathers, Marceliano Alonso and Luis Francés and Brother Coadjutor Félix Aguado, and later would be formed by Father’s Marceliano Alonso, Ignacio Gordon, Tomás Galipienzo and Luis Francés, and the Brothers Félix Aguado and Santiago Vélez.
The danger increased every day, but they did not take any measure because they believed that the apartment kept them in a certain anonymity with which to be safe and calm, not even in dress like the others. Father Superior, Marceliano Alonso Santamaria wrote this to his parents on March 12, 1936: “In Valencia everything has been peaceful; There have been their manifestations, but with order. I walked 5 days dressed in lace because I have to leave a lot, and many priests to avoid anything, have gone like that, it was for the days of carnival, so a disguised more …”
This was a very subjective interpertation because when running to the nearby Chapel of San Vicente, one could not go unnoticed. But on the other hand, they could not ignore the laws that had been promulgated by the Republic, let alone the dangers they had endured in the other communities. So when the events grew, they were surprised and began to seek shelter in the home of protectors and friends and to process new documentation, because they only had the certificates of teachers. Too late and in vain.
Staying on the floor
When the religious persecution broke out, only the four Fathers remained on the floor, while the two Coadjutor Brothers left, conforming to the will of God. The only precaution they took was to wear plain clothes, as it could not be otherwise. And even they received some instruction on how they had to behave in the street. In the floor they spent the day, where they followed religious life, since they had converted a habitation with a chapel where they celebrated Mass and the cult to people of confidence. At night they went to sleep at pensions and hotels, if they were admitted, or at friends’ houses.
The accommodations were a little martyrdom for them because they were not always admitted, like the Hotel Europa, where despite being midnight, they did not want to receive them. Hence the Fathers Alonso and Galipienzo were of the opinion of still staying in the floor. There the Fathers Modesto Jorcano met them when arriving at Valencia fleeing of Cartagena.
On July 21, the Committee of the Street of Jesus appeared in the house. Father Galipienso spoke to them and they left. The Fathers said with a certain candor:
They know that we have not gotten into anything, that we are religious and we were recently in Valencia.
But the Committee returned at other times demanding the things they wanted from the ones on the floor. They also suffered a brief detention.
Friendly people told them:
But, Fathers, after what has happened, shouldn’t you go somewhere else?
Wherever we go we have to compromise, they responded.
As it was dangerous to go out on the street and to avoid discomfort, some friends took them food.
The Fathers were conformed to the will of God and thought they would be martyrs.
On July 27, Brother Aguado returned home and found the Fathers French and Galipienzo celebrating Mass on a chair. When seeing him Fr. Galipienzo said to him:
Brother, how did you come?
Father, by the street of San Vicente, with danger and half hidden.
Well go away, if they catch you, they’ll shoot you
Father, I’m leaving, but we will not see each other again.
It happened like that.
On July 30th, Fr. Luis Frances went to the village of Serra, invited by the parish priest of Grao, Alfonso Roig.
But the Revolutionaries, investigators, took all measures so that they could not escape because they called undesirable: lists, files, spies, bribes, coercions, assaults on houses, hotels, inns.
When all was said and done, the Fathers decided to leave the house and they communicated with their close friend Don Paco Comas, who lived in the same street of San Vicente and had his job in the offices of the Electra of Valencia. They gave him 2,000 pesetas to keep. All in vain. Fear in some and cowardice in others made the errands unfruitful. Then they addressed the ladies Albi Santandreu, Matilde and Pepita, with their mother Josefa Escuder. They were well received. They moved more diligently, but they got no result. They collected and kept some papal documents and documents from the Fathers. Some papers corresponding to the communities had to break for fear of the records.
As the mother of the said ladies was ill, Fr. Alonso on his visit, comforted her, animated and left her calm, but she was always interested in the Fathers, as Fr. Alonso responded:
Do not worry about the Fathers, we’re good; what you suffer offer it to the Lord and the Blessed Virgin for the community.
On August 9th, Fr. Gordon went to the house for a community meeting. There was the glazier of Játiva presenting a bill of 150 pesetas, which he paid at the time. Then Miss Rosa gave him a wallet to keep the rest, to which the Father answered:
You always have things ready to do well.
On August 10, Fr. Modesto Jorcano returned to visit them. He arrived about four o’clock in the afternoon. The Fathers were at home. Alonso, Gordon and Galipienzo and the parish priest of el Grao, Don Alfonso Roig, who fled from his pursuers. This one wanted to see the safe conduct of Fr. Jorcano and escape to Barcelona. The Fathers only had the personal certificate where they stated that they were teachers.
Around five they took the snack which consisted of fruits, pastries and coffee. Father Jorcano informed them of what had happened in Cartagena and that it was a temerity to stay at home, especially at night. Then they invited him to stay.
It cannot be, it is very dangerous, he said to them.
They listened to the radio. Fathers Galipienzo and Jorcano went away to the “oratory,” they confessed and Fr. Jorcano took some consecrated Hosts to take Communion in the inn in case he could not celebrate. Fr Galipienzo showed him where they had the money and other things in case they were arrested.
They agreed that he would return in two days and that on the 15th, the day of the Assumption, he would celebrate with the Sisters of the Domestic Service, who walked as laypeople. He left with the feeling that he would never see them again.
On the night of the 11th Fr. Galipienzo slept at home, having found a safer place, a pension where he would be moved the following day, while the Father’s Alonso and Gordon went to sleep at the inn called Mallorquins, next to the central market, owned by his friends Don Antonio Rodríguez Lacalle and Dª Vicenta García, who were absent. But Dª Paca, the senior manager, received them very well. In the morning, on saying good-bye to Fr. Paca’s and Fr. Gordon, they wanted to give her money, but the woman said:
Father, take it, for if anything happens to you, it will be very good.
Arrest and Prison
Towards 10 in the morning of the August 12, the Father’s Alonso and Gordon went to the Electra Valenciana to talk to their good friend Don Paco Comas Benlloch in his office in order to find a safer place than the inn where they had spent the night. The presence of the Fathers made the employees suspect, who immediately notified the Committee by telephone, which immediately sent representatives and militia who arrested the three in the office and brought them before the Committee. These had settled in the magnificent convent of the Dominican Fathers of Cirilo Amorós Street, as well as the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).
It was there that they asked the Fathers: Are you Jesuits, Dominicans, or Franciscans?
You are well versed in the Religious Orders, responded Don Paco.
I was educated by them, responded one of them.
How little you know them, said Don Paco.
They are good, exclaimed one of the Committee.
If they are good, why do you kill them? Replied Don Paco.
They did not respond. They made a slight statement and, as you can see from the Personal Cédulas that the two were teachers and single and had the same address. They deduced that they were priests and religious and locked them there, while they let Don Paco free. Immediately other militia moved to the house to look for those who were there. There was only Fr Galipienzo, and he was imprisoned.
On August 12, Fr. Jorcano returned to the house as they had agreed. On entering, around eleven o’clock, the concierge, Mrs. Francisca, said to him in deep pain,
They have taken the Fathers. Leave soon, do not let them discover you.
He left immediately. Shortly after arriving at the inn, two police officers were present and after a meticulous search, he was arrested and was taken to the Civil Government. Had the Fathers declared? Did the police follow in their footsteps? I did not know. The truth is that from that moment began his long, painful and terrible imprisonment. On three occasions he was about to be shot. In the end he was saved so he could give an account.