This group of martyrs belonged to the two communities that existed in Barcelona at the time: Gracia,, the Curia of the Provincial Government of Catalonia and the house on Ripoll Street. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July1936, there were fifty-six Claretians in the Gracia community, a good number of them elderly and infirm, and nine on Ripoll Street. The assault on the community of Gracia took place on Sunday, July 19. At the sound of gunfire most of the Missionaries managed to escape. The sick and those who cared for them were forced to stay behind. The house and the church were burned to the ground.
The Martyrs of Barcelona
- Father Candido Casals Sunyers (July, 29, 1936), Superior of the Gracia community and a member of the provincial council, was an exceptionally kind man and an exceptional orator. On July 29, he happened upon two priests and a Salesian brother. Recognized as religious, the four were kidnapped. The next day their bodies were left at a local hospital. Father Casals had been tortured before being shot.
- Brother Juan Capdevila Costa (July 25, 1936), was the first member of the Gracia community to be martyred. He had served with distinction on the administrative team of Coculsa publications. He was able to hide out for nearly a week in the home of Doña Elisa Torres, where he was found by a patrol of militia, following the report of an informer.
- Father Gumersindo Valtierra Alonso (July 26, 1936). Superior of the Ripoll Street residence, he was spotted as a priest for his spotless black suit and arrested.
- The student Adolfo de Esteban Rada (July 31, 1936) was a member of the Gracia community, who took refuge in the home of the family of Josep Oliva, also a Claretian student. They were arrested in no time. While being taken away, Esteban told the owner: “Doña Angela, you have been more than a mother to me. I am most grateful. I am going to die, but I will die quietly. I will be a martyr, and I will go to heaven.” On July 31, his body was found dumped behind a local hospital.
- Father Antonio Junyent Estruch. (August 19, 1936), was staying with the Gracia community, waiting to catch a steamer for his new assignment to Argentina. He was arrested on August 18, while inquiring about the ship’s departure, and executed. On August 20, his body was delivered to a local hospital.
- Father Jacinto Blanch Ferrer (August 21, 1936), served as postulator of the cause for the beatification of our Founder. A friendly, charming man, he was known for his sense of humor, eating very little, sleeping less and working continuously, not to mention his wisdom and holiness. After the assault on the Ripoll Street community, Blanch went into hiding but celebrated daily mass until August 17. Unafraid of what might happen to him, he actually longed for martyrdom. He was arrested at the home of the Bofill family, his dear friends. After a long and tedious search, his body was found in a local hospital.
- At thirty years of age, a native of Barcelona, and already highly regarded as a brilliant professor of Literature and History, a poet, writer and musician, Father Tomás Planas Aguilera (August 27, 1936), was awaiting the arrival at Gracia of a companion, with whom he would travel to Rome for further studies. When war broke out, Planas hid in the home of his brother John. According to a cousin, Planas “had declared with noble arrogance his status as a priest, without fear of the consequences, and He even had composed a hymn to Fr Claret, which would be sung years later by many generations of Claretians. According to a cousin, Father Planes “declared proudly his status as a priest, without fear of the consequences, and it was his firm stance that moved his accusers to sign his conviction.” Before his execution, he told his cousin: “It doesn’t hurt me to die. Only that I would have liked to have done in my life the good that I had dreamed.” Reportedly, he was executed near Sabadell on August 27, 1936
- Father Cirilo Montaner Fabré (September 28, 1936). Already a highly regarded missionary, Montaner was prepared to depart for Equatorial Guinea, when the Spanish Civil War forced him to flee the community of Gracia. After several attempts to find refuge, he ended up in the home of Don Antonio Domenech, an old militant anarchist converted, due to the work and prayers of his wife. One morning after prayer along with Domenech before the Blessed Sacrament, Montaner told the wife: “Today your husband and I have offered ourselves to our Lord for martyrdom and even have included you.” To which the Madam Doménech replied: “God’s will be done.” On November 28, Montaner and Domenech were executed.
- GARCIA HERNANDEZ, P., Chronicle of martyrdom, 271 Claretian Missionaries Martyrs 1936-1939, Madrid 2000.
- QUIBUS, J., Missionary Martyrs, Barcelona 1949.