October 7th: Fr Emile Martinez & Bro John Baptist Arconada, SJ

Fr Emile Martinez & Bro John Baptist Arconada, SJ

Born: May 18, 1893
Died: October 7, 1934

Born: February 15, 1890
Died: October 7, 1934

Fr Emile Martinez was born in Ahedo de las Pueblas, in the province of Burgos in Spain. When the Martinez family moved to Tudela de Navarra, Emile attended a private school and then the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier where he graduated in 1912. He matriculated in the diocesan seminary that autumn and on April 3, the following year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Carrion de los Condes. After pronouncing his vows and after a year studying humanities, he went to Burgos to study rhetoric in 1916 and subsequently in 1918 to 1921, to Ona for his philosophy.

He taught at the colleges in Gijon and Valladolid during his regency between 1924 to 1927 before returning to Ona for his theology in 1924 to 1927 where he manifested his special talent for dealing with young boys, teaching them catechism and speaking to them about God and Christian living. He was ordained on July 30, 1927 and for his final year of philosophy he went to the French scholasticate at Fourviere, near Lyons in southern France.

At Fourviere Fr Martinez continued with what he had done in Ona. Near Lyons, there was a colony of some 4,000 Spaniards who had come to France looking forwork. Because they could not speak French, they were effectively cut off from their religion. Fr Martinez brought them together, acted as their chaplain, baptized their children, and performed marriages. After a year he returned to Spain for tertianship and in 1930 was assigned to the college at Gijon.

Bro John Baptist Arconada was living in Gijon when Fr Martinez arrived. He was born at Carrion de los Condes and had entered the Society at Loyola on July 5, 1908. His early years as a Jesuit were spent as an infirmarian in various colleges in Burgos, Orduna, Bilbao, Salamanca, and Valladolid until 1920 when he was transferred to the College of the Immaculate Conception in Gijon and assigned to supervise students.

Towards the end of September 1934, Fr Martinez and Bro Arconada left their residence in Gijon to go to Carrion de los Condes, where Fr Martinez was to give a retreat and in which Bro Arconada was to participate. The retreat ended on October 2, but they stayed on another day at the request of the priests at the retreat house. Since Fr Martinez had to be back in Gijon on the morning of October 5, a First Friday, they left Carrion de los Condes on October 4, made their way to Palencia, and there caught the express train for Gijon. They boarded the train at 4.00pm and were scheduled to arrive at 10 pm that night, but neither of them was to see Gijon again.

The train met its first delay at Linares at 8 pm. The passengers surmised that it was caused by either a derailment or that the engine had lost its power, without realizing that a socialist uprising was starting. The train eventually moved on but it met many more subsequent delays and finally arrived at the station in Ujo at 5.30 am on October 5, nine hours late. Then the stark reality of the uprising hit the two Jesuits. Revolutionary soldiers commandeered the engine, boarded the train, searched the car for arms and forced the passengers to detrain. They were searched and then released. Sensing that they were stranded, the resourceful Bro Arconada remembered that the Muniz family of Ujo once had sons attending the college at Gijon. He succeeded in finding the residence of the Muniz family who opened their house to the two Jesuits. Mrs Muniz kindly served them food after she heard they had not eaten all day and talked Fr Martinez into changing into her son’s clothes to escape attention. The two Jesuits stayed with the Muniz’s family until the morning of Oct 7 as they did not want to cause trouble for the family by their presence.They decided to risk crossing the mountains to reach Oveida some fifteen miles away. When they arrived at Santullano, thinking it was still untouched by revolutionaries, they descended the mountain to take the main road to Oveida. No sooner were they on the road, near the bridge entereing Santullano, they were stopped.

The soldiers suspected that they were priest/religious and decided to take them to their HQ in Mieres. There they admitted they were Jesuits to which the commander remarked: “We have no room for any more arrests. Take them and do with them what you like. They were led with a several others towards the outskirts of Mieres heading for Santullano and bystanders unashamedly shouted out: “Kill them now, don’t let them celebrate any more Masses.” When they arrived at Santullano, the two religious were again the object of insults, and when they heard their fellow Spaniards blaspheme God, they openly confessed their faith in Him. At Santullano’s City Hall they were sentenced to death to which the people shouted: “Kill them! If they believed inGod, let God perform a miracle for them.”

Fr Martinez and Bro Arconada remained at Ciy Hall until ten that night, Oct 7, 1934. Then they were taken out into the dark on a truck and transported to an abandoned mine tunnel between Santullano and Mieres. They got them out saying: “This is the end of the line for you.” The two Jesuits got out, bravely positioned themselves in front of the tunnel, embraced each other, and together in a loud voice said: “Long live Christ the King!’ Before the echo of their act of faith had died, both Jesuits were shot in the chest. The soldiers then crushed Fr Marinez’s head and beat that of Bro Arconada before they were taken to a cemetery and buried with forty other bodies awaiting burial. Two weeks later the grave was opened and the bodies of the two Jesuits were identified and properly interred in another place in the cemetery.

The official investigation into the martyrdom of Fr Emile Martinez and Bro John Baptist Arconada was initiated in Oveida in 1952.