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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Sharing the sufferings of Christ: the Martyrs of Cuenca, Spain

November 6 is the feast day of the Martyrs of Cuenca, Spain, six of whom were Redemptorists. These holy men gave their lives during the bloody Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, which claimed the lives of approximately 270,000 people, including soldiers and civilians. They were beatified on October 13, 2013.

About 6,850 people died as a direct result of religious persecution, wrote Father Michael Brehl, the Redemptorist Superior General, in a statement published that year. Among those, 13 were bishops, and more than 6,000 were priests and religious.

He noted that for the first 200 years of the Redemptorists’ history, not one of the Congregation’s missionaries was recognized as a martyr.

“I doubt that [St.] Alphonsus ever thought that the first members of his Congregation to experience martyrdom would do so in Spain,” he said.

“It is remarkable that since 2001 the Church has recognized 11 Redemptorist martyrs who gave their lives for Christ and his people, all in the 20th century, and all in Europe-in Spain, Ukraine, and Slovakia.”

He said that the six Spanish confreres who died were in most ways ordinary Redemptorist missionaries.

Father Javier Gorosterratzu was a historian who was supposed to be in Rome, conducting research in the Vatican archives. Father Ciriaco Olarte had been a missionary in Mexico who went back to Spain precisely because of the revolution and religious persecution taking place there.

Fathers Miguel Goñi and Julián Pozo were in poor health and were limited in their missionary activity. Brother Victoriano Calvo was a quiet man of prayer and service.

Father Pedro Romero, judged by his superiors as “unqualified for extraordinary ministry,” showed extraordinary courage as he continued to minister in Cuenca, often living on the streets during the persecution. He died in prison two years after he was forced to leave the Redemptorist residence.

The Martyrs of Cuenca “testify to the truth that the call to martyrdom can come to any disciple at the most unexpected time and in the least expected place,” Father Brehl said.

Few Redemptorist  missionaries will be asked to die violently for the faith. But all of us, he said, “are called to give our lives for plentiful redemption through the proclamation of the Gospel and service of our brothers and sisters.”

Learn more about these holy men here.