SCJ Memorial Day

Remembering those who have given their lives in ministry

scj_memorial-dayNovember 26 is commemorated throughout the congregation as “SCJ Memorial Day,” a time to remember in a special way those SCJs who have given their lives in ministry. Among them were Bishop Joseph Wittebols and 27 other SCJs who died during the 1964 Simba rebellion in the Congo. Today, November 26, is the 49th anniversary of the bishop’s death.

Other SCJ martyrs include Blessed Juan Maria de la Cruz, the first SCJ to be named blessed. On July 23, 1936, in the midst of an anticlerical movement in Spain, Fr. Juan traveled incognito to Valencia seeking refuge with one of the congregation’s benefactors. Leaving the train station he saw men desecrating and burning a church. Fr. Juan shouted in protest. When the men heard his shouting, they said to each other: “He is a reactionary.” He responded: “NO, I am a priest.” He was arrested and taken to the Modelo jail in Valencia where he was killed.

The last SCJ to be martyred was Fr. Paul Punt in 1975. Originally from the Dutch Province, Fr. Paul went to Brazil in 1936 to complete his seminary studies. After his ordination in 1941, he remained in the country to serve in parish ministry. In 1968 he was assigned to Tamandaré, where, besides parish ministry, he also became involved in the coastal town’s fishing industry. Concerned that fishermen were being taken advantage of, he organized them into a cooperative, initially serving as its president.

Besides fishing, Tamandaré was also a hub for smuggling. Worried about the effects of the crime industry on his parishioners, Fr. Paul often spoke out against the smugglers. In the wake of threats against him, his provincial superior encouraged Fr. Paul to leave the area but he would not. On December 15, 1975, he was assassinated. Although official reports list the shooting as a simple act of violence, the people of Tamandaré are steadfast in their claim that he was silenced by those involved in organized crime.

In a special way, please remember these, and the many others who have quietly given their lives in service to others, in your prayers.