Civil wars are hard to understand. The American Civil War, the war in Rwanda in the 1990s, the war in Bosnia. That’s true also of the Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936-1939 between forces of the left and the right. Great numbers of innocent people lost their lives. Outsiders from Germany, Russia and Italy made the war a testing ground for their own war machines. The scars are still there.
Many Catholic clergy were killed, especially in the early months of the war, including 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 men religious and 283 nuns in a period referred to as Spain’s “Red Terror.” Today the Passionists remember their Martyrs of Daimiel, Spain.
Between July 22nd and October 24th, 1936, twenty-six religious from the Passionist house of studies, Christ, the Light, outside the city of Daimiel, about eighty miles south of Madrid, died at the hands of anti-religious militiamen at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
They were: Niceforo Diez Tejerina, 43, provincial superior, who previously served as a missionary in Mexico and Cuba after being ordained in Chicago, Illinois.; Ildefonso García Nozal, 38; Pedro Largo Redondo, 29; Justiniano Cuestra Redondo, 26; Eufrasio de Celis Santos, 21; Maurilio Macho Rodríguez, 21; Jose EstalayoGarcia, 21; Julio Mediavilla Concejero, 21; Fulgencio Calv Sánchez, 19; Honorino Carraced Ramos, 19; Laurino Proáno Cuestra, 20; Epifanio Sierra Conde, 20; Abilio Ramos Ramos, 19; Anacario Benito Nozal, 30; Felipe Ruiz Fraile, 21; Jose Osés Sainz, 21; Felix Ugalde Irurzun, 21; Jose Maria Ruiz Martinez, 20; Zacarias Fernández Crespo, 19; Pablo Maria Lopez Portillo, 54; Benito Solano Ruiz, 38; Tomas Cuartero Gascón, 21; Jose Maria Cuartero Gascón, 18; German Perez Jiménez, 38; Juan Pedro Bengoa Aranguren, 46; Felipe Valcobado Granado, 62.
Most of those killed were young religious studying for ordination and destined for missionary work in Mexico and Cuba. Others were priests who taught them and brothers who served in the community. Father Niceforo, the provincial, was visiting the community at the time.
Militiamen entered the Passionist house on the night of July 21st and ordered the thirty-one religious to leave in one hour. Father Niceforo gathered them in the chapel, gave them absolution, opened the tabernacle and said:
“We face our Gethsemane. . . all of us are weak and frightened, , ,but Jesus is with us; he is the strength of the weak. In Gethsemane an angel comforted Jesus; now he himself comforts and strengthens us. . .Very soon we will be with him. . .To die for him is really to live. . . Have courage and help me by your example.”
He then distributed the sacramental hosts to them.
The militiamen ordered the group to the cemetery and told them to flee. At the same time, they alerted companions in the surrounding areas to shoot the religious on sight.
The Passionists split into five groups. The first group of nine was captured and shot outside the train station of Carabanchel in Madrid on July 22, 1936 at 11pm.
The second group of twelve, Father Niceforo among them, was taken at the station at Manzanares and shot by a firing squad. Father Niceforo and four others died immediately. Seven were taken to a hospital where one later died. Six of them recovered, only to be shot to death later on October 23, 1936
Three other religious, traveling together, were executed at the train station of Urda (Toledo) on July 25th. Two gave their lives at Carrion de Calatrave on September 25th. Only five of the thirty-one religious were spared.
Numerous eye-witnesses testified afterwards to the brave faith and courage shown by the Daimiel Community in their final moments, especially the signs of forgiveness they gave their executioners.
They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1989, who said of them: “None of the religious of the community of Daimiel was involved in political matters. Nonetheless, within the climate of the historical period in which they lived, they were arrested because of the tempest of religious persecution, generously shedding their blood, faithful to their religious way of life, and emulating, in the twentieth century, the heroism of the Church’s first martyrs.” (Homily: October 1, 1989)
Today their bodies are interred in the Passionist house at Daimiel.
Their feastday is July 24th.