24 novembre 2011

Missionari Passionisti uccisi in Cina

Testo di padre Robert E. Carbonneau, passionista


Il 24 aprile 1929, a Hua-chiao (Hunan, in China) dei banditi tesero un’imboscata al gruppo in viaggio dei padri passionisti americani Godfrey Holbein, Clement Seybold e Walter Coveyou.
I primi cui si sparò alla testa, in rapida successione, furono Coveyou and Seybold. Secondi dopo, Holbein fu ucciso allo stesso modo. Dopo che i loro corpi furono gettati in un pozzo di una miniera abbandonata, i compagni dei sacerdoti, chierichetti e portatori cinesi che avevano visto l’uccisione, furono lasciati liberi di ritornare a Chenzhou [poi chiamata Yuanling], nell’Hunan e riferire la notizia. Più tardi, i corpi dei missionari furono recuperati e seppelliti a Chenzhou il 29 aprile 1929.
Dopo 80 anni, questo evento ci permette di capire la continuità e il cambiamento nelle nostre vite.
All’alba del 27 aprile 1929 le persone nel mondo aprirono i giornali sia laici che cattolici e appresero le uccisioni sconvolgenti.
“P.Holbein e 2 sacerdoti uccisi in Cina” gridò il titolo nella prima pagina del 29 aprile del Baltimore Sun, giornale della sua città.
“Battesimo di Sangue” proclamò il Catholic Northwest progress di Seattle, Washington il 10 Maggio.
A partire dal Giugno 1929, il mensile cattolico dei passionisti americani, The Sign, iniziò a pubblicare una serie di dettagli e poi di foto della triste notizia.
Il caos politico e sociale dell’Hunan nel 1929 significò morte per gli stranieri e fu sempre una ragionevole opzione per i Nazionalisti Cinesi, le autorità regionali e il nuovo emergente partito Comunista per avere il controllo l’uno sull’altro.
Nel 1929, rappresentanti del Dipartimento di Stato degli USA, il governo cinese e pure la Santa Sede nel Vaticano a Roma ottennero un limitato successo nel loro immediato impegno di un anno di catturare e punire i colpevoli dell’ovest Hunan.

Oggi, ogni ricercatore storico contemporaneo può andare all’archivio Nazionale di College park in Maryland e rivivere il dramma dell’uccisione e investigazione leggendo il caso del Dipartimento di Stato nel record Group 59: 393.1123 Coveyou, Walter.

Le interpretazioni della loro uccisione sono varie. La stampa laica degli USA non li ha chiamati martiri, mentre la stampa cattolica spesso ha usato tale titolo. La ricerca storica mostra che furono probabilmente uccisi perché erano “demoni stranieri” piuttosto che zelanti missionari del vangelo.
Più tardi, Albert J. Nevins in ‘American Martyrs’ (1987) ha descritto Holbein, Seybold e Coveyou come i “primi martiri americani fuori degli USA”.
Tuttavia, fino ad oggi, non c’è stato nessun tentativo ufficiale di dichiarare i tre passionisti martiri o santi. E’ interessante che le loro famiglie e i passionisti di quella generazione li considerarono sempre dei martiri in un senso culturale piuttosto che tecnico.

All’inizio del 2004, funzionari governativi di Yuanling nell’Hunan decisero di costruire una strada attraverso il cimitero missionario cattolico. Questo spinse i Cattolici cinesi locali a contattare i Passionisti e a mettere in atto un piano per esumare e poi spostare 17 salme -incluse quelle degli uccisi del 1929- in un nuovo cimitero dotato di una lapide commemorativa.
Nell’agosto 2004 ho fatto un viaggio nell’ovest Hunan con un gruppo. Ritto davanti alla nuova tomba ho reso loro omaggio.
In quel momento, ho fatto lo sforzo particolare di toccare i nomi dei tre uccisi nell’Hunan e ricordare che le loro vite hanno rappresentato la storia dei passionisti, la storia dell’Hunan, la storia dei Cattolici cinesi dell’Yuanling. A metà strada intorno alla terra, la loro memoria era tornata in vita.


Tomba dei 17 Missionari Cattolici a Yuanling
L’uccisione di Holbein, Seybold e Coveyou richiama alla mente la loro ricerca di vita normale e pace spirituale in Cina. Anche se di diversa personalità essi, come noi, hanno risposto al meglio della loro capacità. Non sareste d’accordo che c’è un poco delle loro tre personalità in tutti noi? La vita è anche drammatica. Come missionari, hanno affrontato l’ignoto.

Così tante volte dobbiamo affrontare l’ignoto nella nostra vita. Anni fa, il dramma della loro vita li ha condotti in Cina. Oggi, il dramma di comunicazioni, finanza e politica immediate mondiali conduce la Cina a noi. In altre parole, la loro vita rispecchia la realtà moderna che noi dobbiamo cercare una comprensione culturale in modi che essi non hanno anticipato. La nostra fede ci dice che sono in paradiso.

Senza dubbio, sono contenti che i cattolici cinesi locali li hanno ricordati. Allo stesso tempo, possiamo rivolgere alcune preghiere a Holbein, Seybold e Coveyou: primo, perchè la Chiesa Cattolica cinese continui a crescere nella fede e trovi un cammino comune di riconciliazione insieme alla Cina e alla Santa Sede.
Secondo, perchè si ponga fine alle uccisioni e violenze mondiali. La storia e la vita li ha chiamati in Cina. Ci ricordano di vivere la nostra vita con perseveranza e cambiamento. Dove ci chiamano la storia e la vita?

I 17 missionari e missionarie cattolici sepolti in Cina

Father Edmund Campbell, C.P.

Born Donald Edmund Campbell in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on January 5, 1889, he professed his vows on September 6, 1908 and was ordained on May 26, 1915. It was in the early 1920s that Father Edmund Campbell expressed his desire to go to China. On August 25, 1923 they arrived in Shanghai. After a short time in west Hunan, in February 1924 he moved to Hankou where he set up as the Passionist mission procurator. He proved to be a capable administrator. He died on April 13, 1925 after a short illness. He was the first Passionist to die in China.


Father Walter Coveyou, C.P.

Born October 17, 1894 in Petoskey, Michigan, he professed his vows on February 13, 1912 and was ordained on May 29, 1920 for Holy Cross Province—western United States. He quickly offered his ministry to the China missions, but it was decided that the time was not right. Instead he was assigned to Cincinnati, Ohio where he was a preacher who raised monies for the Passionist missions in China. In 1927 the western province decided to send more missionaries. Arriving in west Hunan in late 1928 he began to adjust to mission life. Fathers Coveyou, Clement Seybold, and Godfrey Holbein were killed by Chinese bandits on April 24, 1929. They were the first three American Catholic missionaries to be killed in China.



Father Godfrey Holbein, C.P.

Born Claude Holbein on February 4, 1899 in Baltimore, Maryland, he professed his vows on May 16, 1917 and was ordained a priest on October 28, 1923. China was his first assignment. By mid-1924 he was in west Hunan. He found the mission life difficult and expressed some desire to return to the United States. Fathers Holbein, Coveyou and Seybold were killed by Chinese bandits on April 24, 1929. The Catholic press in the United States proclaimed them to be martyrs.





Father Clement Seybold, C.P.

Born Lawrence Seybold on April 18, 1896 in Dunkirk, New York, he professed his vows on September 17, 1918 and was ordained on October 28, 1923. In July 1924 he went to China. He found the mission life to be a challenge, but he had quite good success. Fathers Seybold, Coveyou and Holbein were killed by Chinese bandits on April 24, 1929. Their death was an international incident to which the United States Department of State had to respond.






Father Constantine Leech, C.P.
Born January 17, 1892, he professed his vows on May 5, 1914 and was ordained on February 4, 1923. He died of typhoid on April 25, 1929 in Yongshunfu, Hunan, China the day after the three missionaries were murdered by bandits. He was proclaimed a "martyr to duty."

Father Edward Joseph McCarthy, C.P.
Born Patrick on July 9, 1903 in South Boston, Massachusetts, he professed his vows on October 12, 1922 and was ordained on May 25, 1929. In 1929 he was assigned to the China mission. His mission was Yuanzhou [later known as Zhijiang]. He died on August 12, 1935 due to dysentary in Zhijiang, China.

Father Justin Moore, C.P.
Born Francis Moore on January 27, 1903 in Fall River, Massachusetts he went to parochial school and then went to work. He eventually entered the Passionists and on October 19, 1930 professed his vows. His religious name was Justin. On April 28, 1931 he was ordained a priest. Prior to his time with the Passionists he had visited Asia. As a result he volunteered for China. He arrived in China November 19, 1935. He had set sail from Vancouver, Canada on November 2, 1935. He studied the Chinese language in Yuanling. He was fine until about a week before his death from typhoid. He was buried in Yuanling, China. Date of Death: May 10, 1936

Father Flavian Mullins, C.P.
Born Edward Mullins on September 16, 1893 in Athens, Pennsylvania, he professed his vows on May 26, 1912 and was ordained on June 14, 1919. To the surprise of many, he was chosen to be in the first group of Passionist missionaries to China. He and five others set sail on Christmas Eve 1921 from Seattle, Washington. By summer 1922 they were in west Hunan studying the Chinese language. Xupu was his primary mission assignment until his United States furlough—1930 to 1931. Assigned to Fenghuang on his return, in 1935 he went to Yuanling, and in 1936 moved to Chexi where he died on June 19, 1936 from natural causes.

Father Denis Mary Fogarty, C.P.
Born November 3, 1904 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, he professed his vows on September 15, 1923 and was ordained March 14, 1930. For thirteen years in Hunan, China he was a builder, engineer and architect. He built thirteen refugee camps, two large hospitals and many dispensaries. The Chinese people called him "The Strong Man." However, dysentery eventually was the cause of his death at Our Lady's Orphanage, Baojing Hunan, China on June 12, 1944.

Sister Mary Joseph Chang, S.C.
Born Nov. 21, 1909 in Shanghai,China, she was adopted by the Chang family—a long time Chinese Catholic family in Shanghai. In 1920 the family moved to Changde, Hunan. In 1924 she met the Sisters of Charity who stayed with the family on their way to west Hunan. Mary decided to enter the Sisters of Charity in 1929. She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity in Yuanling on March 19, 1933, received habit on June 23, 1933 and professed her vows on June 28, 1935. She died from tuberculosis on April 25, 1939 in Yuanling.

Sister Marie Thérèse Tuan, S.C.
Sister Marie Thérèse Tuan, S.C. was the second Chinese member of the Sisters of Charity. Born in 1896 in Beijing she eventually moved to Wuchang, Hubei where she was a teacher. In 1924 family connections led her to Passionist procurator Father Edmund Campbell in Hankou. She told him of her desire to enter religious life. He suggested the newly arrived Sisters of Charity. From 1925 until 1927 she assisted them in west Hunan when political chaos regretfully forced her to part company with the sisters in Hankou. She reconnected with them in Shanghai. Political chaos over, all were back in Hunan in 1928. She entered the novitiate on January 6, 1929 and professed her vows on June 4, 1931. She died from intestinal disease on May 18, 1944.

Sister Marie Devota Ross, S.C.
Born Beatrice Ross on September 27, 1896 in Brooklyn she entered the Sisters of Charity on September 6, 1921 and professed her vows on July 19, 1924. She was one of the first five sisters to go to China on September 22, 1924. Her facility with Chinese led to her appointment as mistress of novices to Sister Tuan. She died from cholera on July 29, 1932 in Chexi and was buried in Yuanling.

Sister Maria Electa McDermott, S.C.
Born Josephine W. on January 6, 1888 in Jersey City, NJ, she professed her vows on July 15, 1915. She was one of the first five sisters to go to China on September 22, 1924. In 1932 she returned for furlough and went back to China in 1933. Almost her whole missionary service was in Yuanling. She died March 12, 1941 from typhoid while caring for sick soldiers.

Sister Catherine Gabriel Whittaker, S.C.
Born May 26, 1912 in North Bergen, NJ., she sailed for China in 1939 and worked at the Yuanling hospital as a nurse. In spring 1941 she came down with typhus. She died on July 8, 1941.

Sister Marie Sebastian Curley, S.C.
Born June 29, 1890 in Galway, Ireland, she entered the Sisters of Charity March 25, 1908 and professed her vows July 8, 1912. She was selected to go to China and left Convent Station in January 1933. After medical training in Hankou in 1934 she returned to the United States for more training at St. Joseph Hospital, Patterson, New Jersey and an eventual B.S. in Nursing from Seton Hall University. She returned to Yuanling, Hunan to be night supervisor for the Catholic Hospital. She died on August 8, 1950 after complications from a fall.

Sister Mary Daniel O'Connor, G.S.I.C.
Born in Canada on January 22, 1886, Sister O’Connor went to the China missions in 1931. She and other Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Canada were assigned to minister in the Lishui diocese (formerly known as Chuchow) located in Zhejiang province. From 1932 until 1942 the Grey Sisters worked with the sick poor, operated a dispensary, and worked with orphans. Political turmoil remained a constant threat. In May 1942 Japanese armies made Lishui unsafe. As a result the sisters moved to Yuanling, Hunan. Sister O’Connor died on May 10, 1943 from typhus.

Miss Ilse R. Lauder, M.D.
Born in Landau, Palatinium, Germany—we are unsure of the date—she was educated at the Latin School of Mannheim. This led her to pursue a medical career at the University of Heidelberg. After she passed her State boards she was an intern at Berlin City Hospital and at Mannheim where her area of specialization was psychiatry. In 1925 she gave up her practice and came to the United States to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota. There she entered the Catholic Church. She went on to practice at Boston and Metropolitan State Hospitals. In August 1933 she decided to go to China in order to assist the mission in west Hunan. After one week in Chenzhou she died from an acute attack of nephritis on September 25, 1933.

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