Biographies of Blesseds - 1993


The following were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993:  

Bishop Diego Ventaja Milan
and his companion martyrs:
Aurelio Maria
Diego Ventaja Milan
Evencio Ricardo
Jose Cecilio
Manuel Medina 0lmos
Teodomiro Joaquin
Valerio Bernardo

Maria Crucified Satellico
Maria Francesca Rubatto
Pedro Poveda Castroverde
Victoria Diez y Bustos de Molina

10 October 1993

The group of martyrs of Almeria Spain, includes the Bishop of that city, the Bishop of Guadix and seven Brothers of the Christian Schools who worked in the educational apostolate at St Joseph College in Almeria.

Their names are: Bishop DIEGO VENTAJA MILAN of Almeria, Bishop MANUEL MEDINA OLMOS of Guadix, Bro. AURELIO MARIA from Zafra de Zancara, Bro. JOSE CECILIO from Molina de Ubierna, Bro. EDMIGIOfrom Adalia, Bro. AMALIO from Salinas de Oro, Bro. VALERIO BERNARDO from Porquera de los Infantes, Bro. TEODOMIRO JOAQUIN from Puntedey and Bro. EVENCIO RICARDO from Viloria de Rioja.

The two Bishops and seven Christian Brothers died for the faith in 1936, a few weeks after the outbreak of the Civil War that ravaged Spain for almost three years. The Revolutionary Committee of Almeria decided to imprison anyone suspected of not supporting the revolution, particularly priests and religious.

On 22 July 1936, several persons came to St Joseph College and took the brothers they found there into custody. During their imprisonment they were a model for the other prisoners, encouraging them to have continual recourse to God.

On the night of 30-31 August, Brothers Edmigio, Amalio and Valerio Bernardo were executed; Brothers Teodomiro Joaquin and Evencio Ricardo on 8 September; and on the night of 12-13 September, Brothers Aurelio Maria, the director of the college, and Bro. Jose Cecilio. The attitude of Bro. Aurelio Maria, expressed a few years before he confirmed his faith with martyrdom, reveals the generosity that motivated these religious: "What happiness for us if we could shed our blood for the lofty ideal of Christian education. Let us double our fervour and thus become worthy of such an honour".

The last days of Bishop Diego Ventaja Milan of Almeria and Bishop Manuel Medina of Guadix were intertwined with those of the Christian Brothers imprisoned with them. On the night of 29-30 August 1936, they were taken out to the place of execution with 15 other prisoners. Bishop Medina asked permission to speak and, according to an eyewitness, said: "We have done nothing to deserve death, but I forgive you so that the Lord will also forgive us. May our blood be the last shed in Almeria".

These exemplary Bishops always showed pastoral concern for all their people and tirelessly traveled throughout their Dioceses to strengthen and deepen their brothers' and sisters' faith at a truly difficult time. Bishop Ventaja was given several opportunities to flee the war zone, but despite repeated requests, he said again and again that he had to remain with his flock.

BL. MARIA FRANCESCA RUBATTO (in the world Anna Maria) was born at Carmagnola, Italy, on 14 February 1844 and lost father when she was four years old. As a child she made a vow of virginity and refused a comfortable married life with a local notary. At the age of 19, she lost her mother and moved to Turin, where she was welcomed by Marianna Scoffone, a noblewoman whose esteem, trust and motherly affection she quickly earned.

Anna Maria went to many parishes in the city to teach catechism to children and she visited the sick in Cottolengo Hospital. She also sought out the poor and attended to the needs of the neglected. Marianna Scoffone died in 1882 and Anna Maria took a brief holiday on the Ligurian coast.

One morning after Mass at the Capuchin church in Loano, she heard cries: a stone had fallen from a convent under construction, striking a young worker on the head. Anna Maria came to his aid, cleaning the wound and giving him two-days' wages. The building was to house a community of women religious and the sisters were looking for a spiritual guide. When they had heard of the incident with the young worker they were certain that Anna Maria was the person they were looking for, but it was a Capuchin priest, Fr Angelico Martini, who convinced her to enter the community. After a year of reflection she joined them in the very house where the worker had been injured, and on orders of the Bishop Filippo Allegro, she became their superior and formation director, taking the name of Sister Maria Francesca of Jesus. Thus began the Institute of the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto.

The institute began to expand. In 1892 the foundress and some of her sisters went abroad as missionaries to Montevideo, spreading their apostolate to Uruguay and Argentina. Mother Maria Francesca crossed the ocean seven times and was later asked to begin a mission with some Capuchin friars from Milan at Alto Alegre in the Brazilian forest. She accepted the invitation and took six sisters with her, staying at the mission for three months. Eighteen months later, on 13 March 1901, Alto Alegre became an altar on which the sisters, the Capuchin missionaries and many of the faithful were sacrificed. Pope Leo XIII called the martyrs "the century's first fruits".

After her return to Italy she was again elected Superior General and accepted the office with her customary humility. With her Italian houses in order, she set out again for America, intending to visit for a few weeks. Her stay was lengthened to over a year and death overtook her on 6 August 1904. She is buried in Montevideo.

BL. MARIA CRUCIFIED SATELLICO (in the world Elisabetta Maria) was born in Venice, Italy, on 31 December 1706. She lived with her parents, Piero Satellico and Lucia Mander, in the home of her maternal uncle, a priest who provided her with a moral and cultural formation. Although she had a weak physical constitution, she possessed a precocious mind and early on showed a particular aptitude for prayer, music and singing. Her childhood was marked by an ardent love for Jesus crucified and by a sincere devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the latter's dedication to prayer. A privileged soul and docile to divine grace, she aspired to the perfection of the Christian life. When she was older her goal was to become a Poor Clare nun. She said: "I want to become a nun and, if I succeed, I want to become a saint". Accepted as a student in the Poor Clare Monastery of Ostra Vetere and made responsible for singing and playing the organ, Elisabetta Maria gave a marvellous example of spiritual fervour as she shared the life of the community. At the age of 19 she received the Poor Clare habit and changed her name to Maria Crucified.

After making her religious profession on 19 May 1726, Sister Maria Crucified concentrated all her efforts on fulfilling her constant desire: becoming in every way more like Jesus crucified, by practising the evangelical counsels and filial devotion to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, according to the spirit of St Clare of Assisi. She filled and made good use of her days with prolonged personal and community prayer. She had a great devotion to the three divine Persons and to the mystery of the Eucharist, from which she daily nourished her hope and love, a love which in her was expressed with seraphic ardour for God - as it was in St Francis and St Clare - and in a fraternal and universal love towards everyone redeemed by the Lord's cross.

Her life of sublime contemplation was marked by austerity and penance, which led her more and more to share in the mystery of the cross and to triumph over the temptations and snares of the enemy. She enjoyed extraordinary supernatural gifts and authentic mystical phenomena, which were special signs of divine favour.

Elected abbess of the community, she looked on authority as a loving service to the community and exercised it with goodness and determination, persuading others by her example. This position also allowed her to practise charity toward her neighbour, especially toward the poor. She died on 8 November 1745, at the age of 39, and is buried at the Church of St Lucy in Ostra Vetere. Because of her reputation for holiness, the canonical process for her canonization began a few years after her death.

BL. VICTORIA DIEZ Y BUSTOS DE MOLINA was born on 11 November 1903 in Seville, Spain. She was the only child of a deeply Christian family of modest means. To satisfy her parents' wishes she studied to become a teacher, while at the same time attending art classes at the School of Arts and Crafts in Seville. She had many fine human qualities, artistic talent and, above all, a deep faith that was expressed in an intense spiritual life. Early on she felt drawn to making a radical commitment to God and to her brothers and sisters.

In Seville she came to know the Teresian Association founded by Fr Pedro Poveda and she realized that there she could join her desire for holiness and apostolic activity to the teaching profession. For Victoria this was clearly the path the Lord wanted her to take and so she began her formation as a Teresian.

Her first teaching assignment was at Cheles, a small town near the Portuguese border. A year later she asked to be transferred to a place closer to Seville, where her father worked, so that she could help her family. The new assignment was to Hornachuelos. There she lived and taught until her death in August 1936.

The testimony given about her life and work in those years shows her to be a competent and dedicated teacher who gave wholehearted support to the parish priest in all the tasks of evangelization: Catholic Action, catechesis, the Eucharistic apostolate, adult education, etc. There is also abundant evidence of her charity, especially towards the neediest children in the class, a charity that caused admiration, since it was apparent to everyone that her financial means were very limited. Obviously, she did without necessities in order to give to others.

Throughout these years Victoria lived in profound communion with the Teresian Association, from whose founder she directly received inspiration and formation for living her vocation. The secret of her apostolate was her closeness to God: "Praying before the Blessed Sacrament I find strength, courage, light and all the love I need to help those entrusted to me on the way of salvation".

The difficult circumstances that arose in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War led to an open attack on the Church in Hornachuelos. At nightfall on 11 August, Victoria was taken to the town hall and later to a house set up as a prison. She remained calm, quiet and prayerful. At daybreak the blessed and 17 others suffered a violent death in the abandoned mine shaft of Rincon. The witnesses present remembered the words of encouragement Victoria gave to everyone: "Come on, our reward is waiting for us!". Her final words were "Long live Christ the King!".

BL. PEDRO POVEDA CASTROVERDE was born in Linares, Spain, on 3 December 1874 to a solidly Christian family. From early childhood he felt the call to become a priest and in 1889 he entered the diocesan seminary in Jaen. Due to his family's financial difficulties he transferred to the Diocese of Guadix, Grenada, where the Bishop had offered him a scholarship. He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1897.

After ordination he taught in the seminary and performed various other tasks in the Diocese. In 1900 he finished his licentiate in theology in Seville and later began an apostolate among the cave-dwellers of Guadix. He built a school for the children and workshops for the adults that provided them with professional training and Christian formation. Due to some misunderstandings he had to leave Guadix and went to Madrid.

In 1906 he was named a canon of the Basilica of Covadonga in Asturias, and devoted much time to prayer and reflection, particularly on the problem of education in Spain. He published articles and pamphlets on the question of the professional formation of teachers and in 1911 he opened St Teresa of Avila Academy as a residence for students and the starting point of the Teresian Association, for the spiritual and pastoral formation of teachers. The following year he joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests and started new paedagogical centres and some periodicals.

To further his work he moved to Jaen, where he taught in the seminary, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and a religion teacher at the Teachers Training School. In 1914 he opened Spain's first university residence for women in Madrid. Meanwhile, the Teresian Association continued to develop, to various groups and cultural areas of society, and leading to its ecclesiastical and civil approval in Jaen.

In 1921 he took up permanent residence in Madrid and was appointed a chaplain of the Royal Palace. A year later he was named a member of the Central Board against Illiteracy, but the bulk of his time was devoted to the Teresian Association, which received papal approval in 1924. Although he did not direct the association, as its founder he worked to consolidate and promote the various dimensions of its mission as it spread to Chile and later to Italy (1934).

Blessed Pedro's life was marked by simplicity and constant devotion to study. Several times he expressed a desire to live his faith to the point of sacrificing his own life. He lived the spirituality of a martyr, which served as a preparation for that fateful day when he did give his life on the morning of 28 July 1936.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
13 October 1993, pages 1 & 2

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