Servant of God Hyacinth Alegre, SJ
Born: December 24, 1874
Died: December 10, 1930
Hyacinth Alegre Pujals (Also known as JACINTO ALEGRE PUJALS SJ) was born in Tarrasa, on the outskirts of Barcelona on December 24, 1874, just before midnight. He spent the first sixteen years in Tarrasa and studied at its Royal College. Since his student days he was interested in the Jesuits after reading the biography of Fr Bernard de Hoyos, the young Jesuit who was responsible for promoting the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion in Spain and Hyacinth found Jesuit life appealing. When the Jesuit priest Ildephonse Roca came to Tarrasa to preach, Hyacinth went to speak with him. After his graduation from the Royal College in 1891, he informed his mother (his father had died in 1888) of his desire to become a Jesuit but since she told him that she could not bear losing her son, he entered the diocesan seminary in Barcelona instead. It was only a year later on August 30, 1892 that Hyacinth’s mother finally approved his entrance into the Society’s novitiate at Veruela.
Hyacinth spent six years a t Veruela’s former Cistercian monastery, now the Jesuit house of studies. After he pronounced his religious vows, he spent the next four years doing humanities and theology after which he taught in Valencia and Barcelona before returning to Tortosa for theology and was ordained on July 30, 1907. After completing his tertianship, Fr Alegre was assigned to the College of the Sacred Heart in Barcelona where for the next nine years he carried out his tasks with great humility, supervising the students in their studies, meals and recreation. He also taught mathematics to the younger students, and was moderator of the students’ sodality and thus responsible for their religious formation. As he taught the young men to pray and love God, his own prayer life and his love of God advanced. Fr Alegre also taught catechism to workers and visited the sick in Barcelona’s hospitals.
Fr Alegre developed a special love for the sick, especially those who were poor and lonely and those without visitors or anyone to care for them. He visited them daily and was so well known among the people that they called him “Apostle to the sick.” Even after their discharge Fr Alegre continued to check on their recovery and needs. His priestly heart went out to the sick poor and this led him to conceive the idea of a special hospital where charity cases could receive proper care and attention. He heard of St Joseph Cottolengo who founded the Little House of Divine Providence for the sick and needy in Turin, Italy in 1828 and visited the hospital in Turin to learn how the hospital was operated. After his return in 1927, Fr Alegre began to make plans and started raising funds. The hospital in Barcelona was completed after his death and was named Cottolengo del Padre Alegre and in time to come, several more were set up in other parts of Spain, each continuing the vision that Fr Alegre had of offering proper health care to the sick poor.
Fr Alegre discovered a tumour in his nose in December 1930 but thought nothing of it initially. It was only when it grew and caused him pain that he went to the infirmarian who subsequently confined him to his room to rest. When the physician saw him on the sixth of December he was confident the priest would survive. However, Fr Alegre sensed his illness would take take him to God. During the night of December 7 to 8, the tumour grew and caused him great pain and he was transferred to the infirmary on the 9 th. The physician suggested an operation but the surgeon who saw him on the 10 th advised against it when he discovered that the tumour’s poison had already spread to his brain and that the operation would be pointless. When news of Fr Alegre’s condition spread through Barcelona on the 10 th, a stream of visitors ranging from family members, sodalists and friends came to see him.
That evening at about 7.00, the Jesuit rector began the prayers for the dying. When his religious brethren brought him a relic of St Theresa of the Little Flower, hoping for a miraculous cure, Fr Alegre responded: “That’s for others. I want to go to heaven.” By 8.00 pm, his breathing became difficult and he surrendered his soul peacefully to his Creator forty minutes later.
Fr Alegre was initially put to rest among his deceased Jesuit brethren but his remains were moved to the chapel of Barcelona’s Cottolengo del Padre Alegre twenty five years later in 1955. His cause is presently being investigated.