Mexican martyrs have local ties
Five came from same hometown of soon to be ordained deacon
By Maureen Blaney Flietner
Some of Luis Sanchez's relatives from his hometown in Mexico
won't be able to attend his May 20 ordination as the first
Hispanic deacon in the Green Bay Diocese.
Instead, they will be in Rome for another high point in Hispanic
religious history: the canonization of 25 martyrs of the Mexican
persecution and of Jose Maria de Yermo y Parres, priest and
founder of the Congregation of Servants of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus and the Poor.
The Mexican martyrs include Cristobal Magallanes, a Mexican
parish priest, 21 other priests and three laymen, who died
between 1915 and 1937.
Sanchez understands. Three of the 24 martyrs are from his
hometown, Cuquio. The old people there, he said, remember and
told him when he was growing up how these martyrs died.
"I heard really sad stories," he said. Two, he was told, were
shot in the legs and hands, put naked across donkeys and taken to
town where they suffered for four or five hours, he said.
He was told that the soldiers said, "Give up Jesus Christ and we
will leave you alone," to which they responded, "No. Jesus Christ
is our life." And they were tortured more, he said.
Fr. Fidel Gonzalez Fernandez, MCCJ, professor of church history
and consultant to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of
Saints, said the violence came under "Calles law."
The law, named for Pres. Plutarco Elias Calles, called for harsh
sanctions against those who violated the Constitution, which
banned the church.
When Mexican states began to implement "Calles law," bishops and
the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty tried to
block it and urged a referendum. But the petition, though signed
by 2 million people, was rejected by the Mexican Congress.
Peasants and share-croppers rose up against the repression. The
government used that as an excuse to massacre priests and
Catholic laity. But the troops could not defeat the rebels known
as the "Cristeros" and a reconciliation was attained.
Sanchez said that as a boy he was surrounded by good role models.
"I grew up with a lot of faithful. My father had evening and
morning prayers. I was an altar boy. A lot of my cousins are
priests and I have a brother in the seminary."
He said those who know about the martyrs and about his ordination
told him, " 'Those that died for our religion are really a
blessing for you.' It is going to be a day to remember."
While the canonizations are big news in Mexico, Sanchez says many
Hispanics in the Green Bay Diocese are unaware.
"Some people haven't been back home. There are not as many
old-timers here to explain to them what happened."
Meanwhile Sanchez is anxious and a bit nervous about his
ordination, though he's looking forward to serving as a deacon
wherever he is needed.
"I want to put my faith into practice" Sanchez said. "I think
this is going to be something very special for me, my family and
Sanchez and four other men will be ordained at 10:30 a.m. May 20
at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. St. Willebrord, his parish, has
planned a celebration at 12:30 p.m. May 21.
Related Story: Bishop to ordain five deacons on Saturday.