Wednesday, October 30, 2019


The last missionary we will consider to end the month dedicated to missionaries is  BISHOP CARLOS FILIPE XIMENES BELO.  He was born in 1948 in the village of Wailakama, near Vemasse, on the north coast of Portuguese Timor. His religious life openly denounced the brutal Indonesian occupation of his country

In 1996, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with José Ramos-Horta for working "towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor". A member of the Salesian Society, he studied in Portugal and Rome before ordination to the priesthood. He returned to Timor in 1981, where he taught.

On the resignation of Martinho da Costa Lopes in 1983, Father Belo was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Dili diocese, becoming head of the East Timor church and directly responsible to the Pope. On 6 February 1989, he was consecrated titular Bishop of Lorium.

Father Belo was the choice of the Vatican's Pro Nuncio in Jakarta and the Indonesian leaders because of his supposed submissiveness, but he was not the choice of the Timorese priests who did not attend his inauguration.

However within only five months of his assuming office, he protested vehemently, in a sermon in the cathedral, against the brutalities of the Kraras massacre (1983) and condemned the many Indonesian arrests. The church was the only institution capable of communicating with the outside world, so with this in mind the new Apostolic Administrator started writing letters and building up overseas contacts, in spite of the isolation arising from the opposition of the Indonesians and the disinterest of most of the world.

In February 1989 he wrote to the President of Portugal, the Pope, and the UN Secretary-General, calling for a UN referendum on the future of East Timor and for international help for the East Timorese, who were "dying as a people and a nation", but when the UN letter became public in April, he became even more of a target of the Indonesians.

 After a second massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991, the bishop hid a number of fleeing resistance leaders and publicized the events to the world. As a result, he was put under surveillance, was prohibited from travelling, and survived two attempts on his life.

Bishop Belo's labors on behalf of the East Timorese and in pursuit of peace and reconciliation were internationally recognized when, along with José Ramos-Horta, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1996.

Bishop Belo capitalized upon this honor through meetings with Bill Clinton of the United States and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. In 1995, he also won the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the Canadian human rights group Rights & Democracy. "Let it be stated clearly that to make peace a reality, we must be flexible as well as wise. We must truly recognize our own faults and move to change ourselves in the interest in making peace... Let us banish anger and hostility, vengeance and other dark emotions, and transform ourselves into humble instruments of peace."

In the aftermath of East Timorese independence on 20 May 2002, the pressure of events and the ongoing stress he endured began to show their effects on Bishop Belo's health. Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation as Apostolic Administrator of Dili on 26 November 2002.

"During the Portuguese time the Church was there. During the Indonesian time the Church was the same and now the Church will be present and preach the same values of the gospel -- justice, peace and reconciliation -- and try to work together with the social organizations."

 Following his resignation Bishop Belo traveled to Portugal for medical treatment. By the beginning of 2004, there were repeated calls for him to return to East Timor and to run for the office of president. However, in May 2004 he told Portuguese state-run television RTP, that he would not allow his name to be put up for nomination. "I have decided to leave politics to politicians," he stated. One month later, on 7 June 2004, Pascuál Chavez, rector major of the Salesian Society, announced from Rome that Bishop Belo, returned to health, would take up a new assignment. In agreement with the Holy See, he would go to Mozambique as a missionary, and live as a member of the Salesian Society in that country.

In a statement released on 8 June, Bishop Belo said that, following two meetings in 2003 and in 2004 with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, he would go on a mission to the Diocese of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, as he had wanted to since his youth. He started in July 2004; the same year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from CEU Cardinal Herrera University.

In February 2011 Bishop Belo received the Prize for Lusophonic Personality of the Year, given by MIL: Movimento Internacional Lusófono in the Lisbon Academy of Sciences.

Monday, October 28, 2019


Another living missionary, who is having a great impact on the peoples of Madagascar, is FATHER PEDRO OPEKA, who was born in 1948 in Argentina of Slovene descent. For his service to the poor, he was awarded the Legion of Honor.

His father was a former member of the Home Guard, a Slovenian anti-communist German-led auxiliary police force, and avoided post-war summary executions by fleeing to Italy. He met his future wife in a refugee camp in Italy, where they married. They emigrated together to Argentina to avoid the Yugoslav communist regime.

Father Pedro Opeka speaks 7 languages: Spanish, English, SlovenianFrenchItalianLatin and Malagasy.

In 1968 he joined the Lazarites a missionary order popularly known as Vincentians, founded by St. Vincent de Paul. Part of his formation was in Slovenia and part in Paris, where he came into contact with the Taizé Community near Cluny in France

In 1975, Pedro Opeka was ordained priest in Buenos Aires and was given a rural parish in southeast Madagascar. In 1989, his Lazarist superiors appointed him director of a seminary in Antananarivo, the capital. 

Father Opeka  has described Madagascar as “a precious island, with much natural riches and a very happy and welcoming people that live solidarity and mutual help with great respect.”

When he saw a dump from the hills of the city, he discovered people rummaging among garbage to find something to eat, and sleeping in huts made of hemp propped between mountains of waste. Father Pedro began talking to them, to convince them that they could leave that misery and abuse, for their children. With the team of young people from Vangaindrano he had trained, and after long discussions, he wrote the articles and statutes of Akamasoa ('good friends' in the local language).

“From the beginning, the wisdom of its ancestors surprised me as well as the richness of its culture, and in its proverbs the presence of the Creator God is always present. The Malagasy people are very religious, and one grows attached to them very quickly.

He said much has changed since he first arrived. “When I came to this island it was an extraordinary discovery to live in the midst of a people that have an immense enthusiasm to live, to exist, to share. They had respect for persons and for goods, there was almost no delinquency, no robbery or violence.”

Looking back, Father Opeka notes that after the island gained independence in 1960, its socioeconomic and political situation began to deteriorate, while its population continued to increase. “From year to year, we were sinking into poverty without there being any reaction on the part of those governing. All those who took power ended up defrauding the people.”

Having no money, Father Pedro started it all with 900€ he borrowed from various Christian missions. He appointed a team of staff to help him to manage the daily activities and to provide continuous support to poor people.

Today Akamasoa sustains about thirty thousand people in 18 villages, among them ten thousand children, who all go to school, following the building of 37 new schools in the years since Akamasoa's founding.

About four thousand families live in the 18 villages, but another 900,000 Malagasy people have been supported from one day to three weeks in the 'welcome centers', being offered rice, a roof, some clothing and a small package, in order to be 'born again' to life.

Son of a courageous father who taught him building arts, Father Pedro taught the Akamasoa youth how to build houses, first out of wood, and then, bricks and mortar.
Over 3,000 solid houses have been built by Akamasoa to date for people who used to live in card-board boxes on the ground. Every year, Akamasoa builds new schools, clinics, and training and production centres. Over 3,600 jobs have been created for the villagers, who are paid by Akamasoa every month.
A comprehensive economic structure, Akamasoa has grown to being 75% self-sufficient in revenue, thanks to the creation of stone and gravel quarries, to the craft and embroidery workshops, and to a compost centre next to the 'Tana' public rubbish.

 Father Pedro Opeka taught the Akamasoa people tips on how to divide and sort the rubbish, to transport the compost created from rubbish, and to create small agricultural farms. Akamasoa also trains construction artisans (bricklayers, carpenters, cabinet makers, operators and street pavers) who have built or rebuilt roads and bridges to help communities in the villages and all over the country.

In 2007,Father Pedro was named a knight of the Legion of Honor. The award, decreed by the President of France, recognizes his 20 years of public service to the poor in Antananarivo. This award recognizes the ongoing fight led here against poverty by this man of faith and his 412 co-workers: physicians, midwives, teachers, engineers, technicians, and social workers, all of them from Madagascar.

In 2009 he received the Golden Order for Services, which is the highest national decoration of Slovenia.

With the Pope in 2019- who visited Madagascar
In 2012 and 2013 Father Pedro was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by united Slovenian European Parliament representatives regardless of political party affiliation.

Father Pedro has seen much change in this country since his arrival over 30 years ago, and not for the better, but he sees a glimmer of hope for the nation because “a young president has come to power who seeks to change and to bring peace and social justice to his people.”

Andry Rajoelina,  has begun to attack the corruption and the whole class of favoritisms that impede the country’s economic growth.

“The new president is Catholic and does not hide his faith and for many years now he has come to celebrate Christmas with the poor families of Akamasoa.”

Asked about the role of the Catholic Church on the island, Father Pedro said, “The Church has played an important role in the history of Madagascar. It was the cradle of the education of children in the whole national territory. Indeed, the missionary presence was very important because it brought education, health, dignity.

The force of the Gospel was what kept the hope of the poorest. Without the presence of the church, Madagascar would be very much poorer.”

This gentle man of God is an example of one who has given up all to follow Christ as he makes a difference to the neglected poor of an almost forgotten country. To many he is known as the "man of miracles".

Saturday, October 26, 2019


Another missionary who had an impact on peoples in our own Southwest  was FATHER  ANTON DOCHER a French Franciscan born in 1852, who served as a missionary to Native Americans in New Mexico.

Following academic studies and years of military service, in 1887 Father Anton traveled to the United States, where he was first assigned to the Cathedral of Santa Fe for a few years and was ordained. He worked briefly at Taos, before being assigned to the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico, where he served for 34 years until his death.

Respected by the Isleta for his open-minded attitude to their customs and ancestral faiths, Father Anton was called Tashide, which means "little helper" in Tewa language. He was known for owning a parrot named Tina, which used very foul language.

Father Docher raised an Isletan orphan boy named Tomas Chavez. When Tomas married Lolita Delores, Father Docher gave the couple five acres and a house in Los Lunas as a wedding gift. Tomas developed a vineyard on this land and supplied wine to the Isleta and local churches. Unfortunately, he died in 1925, three years before Father. His widow Lolita Delores was left with nine children. Father Docher paid for the children’s schooling.

Father on left, Tomas on right

Father Anton became a naturalized
United States citizen. Close to the people he served, he referred to himself as an "Indian" in the letters which he sent to his family in France.

Suffering a long illness, Father Anton lived the last three years of his life as a patient at the St Joseph Hospital (Albuquerque), where he died at the age of 76 on December 18, 1928.

In front of his house with bee hives

Willa Cather
 used him as a model for her protagonist Padre Jesus de Baca in her novel "Death Comes for the Archbishop" (1927). She visited him shortly before his death.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Two modern missionary saints are ST. GEORGE PRECA (1880-1962), the first native saint of MALTA and founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, a group of celibate laypeople devoted to prayer, studying church teaching and instructing the young. 

As a young priest, St. George had a vision of the child Jesus that stimulated his efforts to promote sound doctrine and formation among Catholics. The author of numerous books and booklets, he was also a renowned preacher who drew crowds of faithful wherever he went.

In the 1950s he suggested use of five “mysteries of light” for praying the rosary, an innovation later adopted by Pope St. John Paul II for the universal church.
In his sermon, Pope Benedict praised him as a consummate evangelizer, above all through the example of his own life. St. George’s liturgical feast is celebrated May 9.

ST. CHARLES of ST. ANDREW HOUBEN (1821-1893), a native of the NETHERLANDS  (unusual because this country does not have many saints),  who, after joining the Passionist order, spent most of his life ministering in England and Ireland.
He was especially known for his healing touch, his ministry as a confessor and for insisting in his preaching that God’s love could not be understood unless people understood the passion and death of Jesus.

At the funeral of the much-loved priest, his superior was moved to observe, “The people have already declared him a saint.” His feast day is Jan. 5. 
Both saints were canonized on the same day in 2012..

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


As I have said in past Blogs, it never ceases to amaze me how the saints influence each other even while here on earth. Our next modern missionary is not only the brother of another canonized saint- GIANNA MOLLA- but also influenced our previous Venerable, Marcello Candia.

St. Gianna Molla

VENERABLE ALBERTO BERETTA was born in 1916 in  Milan one of 13 children. He received  an exemplary Christian upbringing from his parents, who prayed frequently, went to daily Mass and practiced love of neighbor. While still a young man he met a Capuchin missionary, learning of the plight of the  abandonment of the poor, sick and lepers in the state of Maranhão. He decided he wanted to be a missionarty doctor to these people.

Day of First Mass - 1948
At the age of 29, while practicing as a doctor and surgeon, he began to study theology by attending his first two years in Freiburg Switzerland and later the last two years at the formation house of the theology students of the Capuchin friars of Piazzale Velasquez. He was ordained March 13, 1948 in the church of San Bernardino in Milan.
Graduation Day- 1942

On March 12, 1949, he left for Brazil arriving in Grajau  on August 2 (after delays along the way).

Because Brazil's standards did not include recognition of the academic titles obtained in Italy, the young and earnest missionary patiently accepted to repeat the tests of numerous medical disciplines in which he had already passed his homeland. This determination led to a return to future times his willingness to act immediately in the medical field for which he already brought science, competence and experience and traveled to Rio Grande do Sul. What at first seemed a painful obstacle to be faced became in advantage, because it also had the opportunity to study other specializations and acquire precious knowledge that would be useful to him in his work in the backlands of Maranhão.

In 1950, with the help of his brothers who lived in Italy, especially Monsignor Giuseppe the Engineer, he began the construction of the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital. In 1957 the construction of the Hospital was completed, something unbelievably for the time, considering the scarcity of transportation at the time and the lack of roads. Later Friar Alberto himself felt the need to expand the structure.

Vila San Marino

Friar Alberto also created Vila San Marino, for the proper treatment of people with leprosy, extremely numerous in the region at that time, and where he  made a point of going every day, devoting himself to the sick, as a doctor and as a priest. In this village he tests a practice he learned from a Russian doctor, who teaches him a revolutionary technique even today: the use of the human placenta to treat the most complex pathologies using stem cells. 

Doing therapy
The Hospital soon becomes a reference throughout the state of Maranhão. His techniques, especially the placental treatment, diligent and carefully treated with an autoclave made especially for sterilization, are known throughout Brazil. That is why,  the city of Grajaú received patients with various pathologies from the most distant regions of Brazil. Friar Alberto, with his extraordinary training, could have practiced his profession in any developed country of the world, but he chose Grajaú and the region, making such a choice only because he knew that in this part of the world there was no doctor for so many souls.

His final vows into his order was long in coming but In August 1964 he was consecrated inot the Capucian Order. In the intervening years he labored among the people giving himself with the fervor of a neophyte and a saint to alleviate the suffering of the poor who could not reward him.  At that time, many Grajauenses who needed medical care, had no resources and were simply left to their own devices. He was at the same time an obstetrician, pediatrician, geriatrician, surgeon, ophthalmologist, general practitioner and many other specialties.  With Friar Alberto, a patient was never left unattended, no matter what his problem. This caused crowds from all nearby communities to seek the hospital, turning the place into a sanctuary of hope and charity.

In December 24,1981, after 33 years in Brazil, after attending to a father of ten who had an accident that almost amputated his hand, Friar Alberto had a stroke losing his speech and partial movement. He was transferred to San Luis where he was treated and soon after was sent  back to Italy for treatment  and finally to the house of his brother, Monsignor Giuseppe in Borgo Canale, where he lived for another twenty years until his death in 2001. 

In June  2008, at the Curia in Bergamo,  Italy, Archbishop Roberto Amadei, began the process of beatification of Friar Alberto Beretta. On the occasion, Bishop Roberto said:  "He was a great witness of charity in daily life, capable of making life become a teaching of the gospel. A great and silent witness." " Father Alberto continued to witness to Christ through prayer and his serenity," said the bishop. "An important testimony in today's society that considers those who do not produce useless people , " he concluded.

Ordination Day (ST. Gianna 2nd left)
 Present at the opening ceremony of the beatification process were present his brothers, Monsignor Giuseppe and Sister Virginia, some nephews and other relatives.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Here is a missionary who gave up wealth, family and  home to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, ministering to the least among us. VENERABLE MARCELLO CANDIA  (1916-1983) was an Italian Roman Catholic industrialist and entrepreneur who became active in the missions in Brazil. He worked to protect Jewish people during World War II and was involved in preventing their deportation by the creation of new documents that would save the Italkim lives by making pass them as non-Jewish Italians, in particular for children by hiding them in homes and industries or helping them to safety relocate to the UK or America.

Marcello Candia was born in 1916 to a Milanese industrialist family, in Naples while his parents were temporarily expanding business in Southern Italy. His father, Camillo de Candia, was an industrialist from an old aristocratic family of Milan, and his mother Luigia Mussato from an old noble family from Milan.

The Venerable said of his parents: "I had parents who gave me a zeal for life". His mother instilled the faith in her children and weekly he accompanied his mother to visit the poor.

In 1939 he acquired a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked at the beginning of World War II in explosives. He earned his doctorate in 1943 in biological sciences. He also took an active part in the resistance against the Nazi forces that occupied the region, often risking his own life working with the Capuchin friars assisting the Jews threatened with deportation. The war's end saw him help deportees and prisoners return to their homes while he opened a medical and humanitarian welcome center at the local train station with three friends.

In 1950, at his father's death and at WWII end, Venerable Marcello assumed full management of his family’s chemical industrial factory headquartered in Milan with full control of its operation across Italy. After experiencing the world devastation of WWII, he developed a deep awareness for the plight of the poor, concern that prompted him to sell his factory in 1964 (creating a rift with his younger brother Riccardo). 

It was around this point that he first met the Capuchin friar Alberto Beretta (the brother of St Gianna and himself now up for canonization) who was preparing to leave for the missions in Brazil; during his conversation with Beretta  Marcello learned of the terrible conditions of the poor people of the Amazons. In 1957 he made his first visit to Macapá in Brazil, where he studied the issues and assessed the local needs and problems at the request of the PIME priest Aristide Pirovano.

Eventually, he commissioned the building of a church for the Saint Benedict parish. In 1965, he met in a private audience with Pope (St.) Paul VI just before moving to Brazil, later he said of the decision: "I am called to live with them". One of his initial barriers was his difficulties in learning the Brazilian Portuguese language. To finance his Missionary enterprise, Candia sold his father's business the profitable Italian Factory of Carbonic Acid, Dr. Candia & Company, leaving all behind in Italy and relocating to Macapá; around that time in 1964 this action caused an extreme rift with his younger brother Riccardo who resented the fact that he sold the organization to go to Brazil.

He then moved to Brazil to assist the people in need living in the Amazons. He was dedicated to social justice initiatives and supported the work of the local charities. He was subject to suspicion in the beginning since some missionaries were confused about someone from great wealth coming to serve the poor and living as a poor man. He shrugged off those suspicions and considered himself a disciple of the poor, wishing only to alleviate their suffering and social conditions.

His main concern was the construction of a hospital, started in 1961, in Macapá, Brazil, to be for the assistance of the poor. The hospital opened a decade later in 1971. He also opened a center outside the town he lived in for the lepers working with them until the end of his life. Venerable Marcello’s health grew worse over time despite his exhaustive work standards which led to several health crises leading to his death back in Italy in 1983.

Candia liked reading about the lives of (Bl) Pier Giorgio Frassati and St Thérèse of Lisieux while at his new home had no running water in his room; this prompted him to use the tap-water outside to fill a jug for self-wash and shave. In 1975 a popular Brazilian magazine dedicated a long article to him titled "The Best Man in Brazil" - he was quick to shrug this honor off and said: "I am but a humble instrument of Providence". Since 1967 he suffered four consecutive heart attacks and grew fearful that another could claim his life; on 9 April 1977 (Good Friday) he had to have a triple bypass in São Paulo and was urged to seek better treatment in his homeland if he wished to survive. Candia returned to his work in Brazil a month later after heading back home for treatment. In 1982 he founded the Fondazione Candia to keep his work alive.

 During his time in Brazil he became known as the "Doctor Schweitzer of the Amazon" and in 1980 met Pope  (St.) John Paul II after the latter visited his leper hospital. He collapsed due to ill health in May 1983 prompting plans for him to go to Milan for treatment.

He left Belem for his homeland on 10 August 1983 knowing he would die there but wanted to get his health checked as well as to reconcile with his brother Riccardo with whom there were difficulties. But he fell ill on the plane and once he arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He was taken to the San Pio X Clinic in Milan on 11 August. The skin cancer soon metastasized to his liver causing liver cancer. He died on 31 August 1983 at 5:30pm in the San Pio X Clinic in Milan and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini presided over his funeral on 2 September. 

He died from liver cancer and skin cancer as well as a related bone tumor over his right lung. His remains were later transferred on 6 April 2006 to the parish of the SS. Guardian Angels and were placed to the left side of the altar.

Friday, October 18, 2019


The Polish bishops’ conference has agreed to begin the canonization process for the parents of Saint John Paul II.

The Polish episcopate made the announcement Oct. 10, setting in motion the first steps for the beatification of John Paul II’s father, KAROL WOJTYLA, and mother, EMILIA (Kaczorowska).

Karol, a Polish Army lieutenant, and Emilia, a school teacher, were married in Krakow Feb. 10, 1906. The Catholic couple gave birth to three children: Edmund in 1906; Olga, who died shortly after her birth; and Karol Junior in 1920.

The family was known to be faithful Catholics and rejected the increasing anti-Semitism of the time.

“The immediate family strongly influenced spiritual and intellectual development of the future Pope,” the bishops’ conference said.

Emilia had received a formal religious education. Before she died of a heart attack and liver failure in 1929, she was a staple of faith for the house. At the time of her death, Karol Jr. was a month away from his ninth birthday.

“Emilia Wojtyła graduated from the monastery school of the Sisters of Divine Love. With full dedication and love, she ran the house and looked after the sons Edmund and Karol,” the conference said.

His father raised his sons alone until his death 12 years later. According to Catholic Online, Karol was a prayerful man and pushed Karol Jr. to be hardworking and studious. The father also took on family chores such as sewing his son’s clothes.

“Karol Wojtyła senior as a father was a deeply religious, hard-working and conscientious man. John Paul II repeatedly mentioned that he had seen his father kneeling and praying even at night. It was his father who taught him the prayer to the Holy Spirit which accompanied him to the end of his life,” the conference said.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Another great missionary who worked on American soil was SERVANT OF GOD FATHER STEPHEN ECKERT, a Capuchin Friar who labored among the poor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has been called: "The apostle and champion of the colored race".

He was born in Ontario, Canada in 1869 into a family of emigrants from Bavaria. His family fostered and encouraged his desire for religious life which took him first to St. Jerome's (today Kitchener) College in Berlin, Ontario.

When he was 21 years old, Stephen asked to have a trial experience at the Capuchin Friary in Detroit, Michigan. He returned a year later to become an exemplary and admirable novice, with only one disappointment: the absence of any kind of sport. This was a great sacrifice for someone who, like him, had been the bulwark of the team on which he had played as a boy, even to the point of earning the epithet "an engine impossible to oppose".

He was ordained in 1896 and immediately made himself available for any form of apostolate. He was taken at his word and sent to fill in as friaries were gradually opened in the Province, at New York, Cernwell Heights, and Fond du Lac, where he devoted himself above all to catechesis for children and assistance to the sick, regretting the aloof and cold attitude of these souls whom he would have liked to warm with his words.
Fr. Stephen worked with great success and was  loved and respected not only by the parishioners but also by the large number of Protestants who had come into contact with him.

Although he was prepared to work with everyone and for everyone, Father Stephen felt a special attraction for African American people, among whom the Protestants, in particular, were already working. In 1903 he wrote to his Superior: "I humbly ask you for the privilege of devoting my life to missionary work alone, in conformity with God's holy will. I must point out that since last year I have been thinking of going south to work with the Blacks; so if you think that this might redound to the greater glory of God, I would be glad to do so...".

He had to wait eight years. He was sent at last to the mission of St Benedict the Moor, which had recently been given up by the Jesuits who had opened it in 1886. It was located at the heart of the territory inhabited by "Blacks", the term that was in use during Father Eckert's time for African Americans. He managed to adapt one room for himself; he chose a better one for the chapel, convinced that in order to address this cause, the priority was recourse to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, before whom he would spend a large part of the night. 

Within two months, Father Stephen made contact with 450 people, going from house to house, giving rise to waves of wonder for no one had ever "dared" to do as much. He was immediately able to gather about 40 children, half of whom lived far away for a school. He then opened a boarding school since he felt that "one can do more with one year boarding than with five at day school". He entrusted its direction to the Notre Dame Sisters, recommending that they follow the regulations he had drafted, and certain fundamental details on which he insisted: respect for the individual, the ban of corporal punishment and all coercive means; an insistence on prevention so that the children might be properly introduced to virtue. 

This virtue was not to be imposed but fostered, cultivated and taught. Himself a passionate sportsman, Fr. Eckert included in the regulations, as a complement to an integral and harmonious education, various athletic activities and at times even went to the sports ground to teach game techniques and respect for the rules. He organized a shoe repair shop for the boys and a sewing school for the girls; he opened a nursery school to help working mothers; he set up an employment agency and made a hall available for meetings.

An early advocate of human rights about 30 years before the Declaration of Human Rights he was already affirming that rights existed and that all should be able to enjoy them for the sole reason that they live in the world: the right to life, to freedom, to safety and to fair treatment without discrimination. Fr. Stephen was unable to resign himself to the idea that they be considered inferior or be excluded from specific responsibilities due to poverty or lack of education. He said so from the pulpit, at conferences, in the pages of journals and he wrote it to his Bishop. "Blacks are our brethren, for, in common with us, they have the same Father who is in Heaven.... "The greatest help we can give Blacks is to help them raise their children; thousands of parents are unable to do so because of the lack of social institutions for them". 

With serene firmness he did his best to make it understood that the Church is not the "White Man's" monopoly but open to all and rejoiced to see them entering her, sure of being welcomed. "To do something for the Blacks", he would say, "we must first convert the Whites to their cause". For this reason he founded "Committees for race relations" and "Study Circles". His initiatives met with a success that perhaps even he had not anticipated and there came a point when he needed more room. When the future of his school was threatened, however, Fr. Stephen bowed his head, saying that he was saddened because the education of these children, about whom no one seemed to care, had been jeopardized. Despite this, he continued to work with the self-same zeal and passion, saying that he was ready "to die for each one of them", because they had a greater need than others for understanding, esteem and affection.

St. Benedict  the Moor- Milwaukee
 Fr. Stephen was not given the concrete opportunity to die for them since pneumonia, which he had contracted after a demanding preaching session in Britt, forced him to stop his apostolate. He refused to be hospitalized as the doctor suggested and returned to Milwaukee, to the people he served, and whom he wished to greet one by one. Eventually, he was obliged to be admitted to the hospital, where he died on 16 February 1923, mourned by all the faithful of St. Benedict the Moor. However, all were comforted by the news that the Diocese was initiating the process of the beatification of "their" apostle and champion. 

Monday, October 14, 2019


In this year we have  written about many missionaries:  Sister Clare Crockett (Blog 4/17), Irish nun who died in Ecuador, Bl. Richard Henkes (9/18), S of God Madeleine & Raoul Follereau (2/11) dedicated their lives to the lepers in East Africa,  Servant of God John Joseph McCauley (2/18),  to name a few. This next missionary is a bit closer to home in the Northwest.

FATHER SEGUNDO LLORENTE a Jesuit missionary spent most of his apostolic life deep in the Arctic Polar Circle. He was born on November 18, 1906 in Mansilla Mayor in the province of Leon, Spain. At the early age of 17 he answered the call to become a priest, and at 19 went to the missions. His brother Amando, also became a Jesuit, who became a teacher and mentor to Fidel Castro, and later was a chaplain and director of spiritual services for the U.S. Army in Miami.  

In 1930 he traveled to the US as a member of the Oregon's Jesuit Province to teach at Gonzaga High School in Spokane, Washington. In 1931 he studied theology in St. Mary’s College in Kansas, followed by ordination in1934.  He also spent time in studies in Alma, California.

In 1935 he departed for Alaska in a 37 days trip to Akulurak. He later did a tertionship in Port Townsend, Washington.

He had volunteered for "the most remote and difficult places", and soon after obtained permission to go to Alaska. Forty years among the Eskimos, he traveled thousands of miles and dwell on both sides of the Yukon River. He spent long seasons in Akurulak, Bethel, Kotzebue, and Alakanuc, the first being the place of some of his most exciting memories made famous in the book "Crónicas Akurulakeñas". Father Segundo went back to Spain only once, in 1963, a trip design to encourage vocations to the priesthood.

In 1938 he  was assigned to Kotzebue in Alaska and by 1941 was appointed Superior of Akulurak. In 1960, he won a seat in the 2nd Alaska State Legislature as a write-in candidate, becoming the state’s first Catholic priest elected to office.

In 1975 after 40 years in Alaska, he was transferred to Moses Lake, Washington, and six years  later to Pocatello, Idaho.

In 1984 he became chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Lewinston, Idaho and died five years later in Spokane, Washington. He was buried in Desmet, Idaho.

He wrote twelve books about Alaska, all of them in Spanish, even though four years of theology school in Kansas gave him a perfect command of the English language. He was also able to speak sufficient "Eskimo" language to make himself understood among the natives. He wrote thousands of letters, with his deep and habitual flare, inviting the youth of the world to join the priesthood and the rewards of becoming missioners. His letters and essays about life among the Eskimos were published in the magazines "Misiones" and "El Siglo de las Misiones". All this correspondence gave way to the publication of several books but the best is considered to be "40 Years in the Polar Circle", a work prepared by his brother, the Father Amando Llorente, SJ with the collaboration of Dr. Jose A. Mestre.

He never said no to God and  lived a happy life as a priest.  Testimonies about this attitude were attested several times in his writings, particularly in the following paragraph of the previously cited book: "Neither the Blessed Virgin nor the angels can do what priests do every day, Christ could have arranged things in many other ways; but He chose the intervention of the priests. Upon this figure He partakes to bring salvation to the human race". 

In spite of his many labors, there is a real contemplative side to his spiritual side.  Was it the long dark days and nights that gave him time to reflect and pray?   "In the darkness of the church in Nunajak, He and I, alone, without words, understand each other; we rest and make our heaven on Earth".

"During my visit to the U.S.A., when I entered those enormous temples it felt as if I was in a public plaza. Here in Nunajak there are no such temples; here, by the altar, I could swear that Jesus can hear the most silent whispers".

"In the great churches of the cities and even in the small towns, there is a tabernacle, so distant from the people that it looks as if one were also far from the Most Holy".

"Among the promises to the devotes of his Sacred Heart we could not miss a most special one for his priests, the promised grace to soften the hearts of those most hardened"

"It seems very common for the Lord having to obey; when I consecrate He must obey; when I absolve He must approve, if there is no faulty impediment; When I baptize He must adopt the creature. He voluntarily submitted Himself to us, as it is often said: "He opted to be at our service".