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  • The Friars Minor in Shanxi

    Gregorius Grassi, bishop

    Gregory Grassi was born on December 13th, 1833 in Castellazzo Bormida, Italy, and was baptized with the name Peirluigi. His parents raised him with their eight children in the sound principles of religion, including devotion to Our Lady. On November 2nd, 1848, he took the Franciscan habit in the Friary of Montiano, Romagna, with the name, Gregorius. His solemn profession was made one year later on December 14th. After taking a regular course in philosophy and theology at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Bologna under the direction of Fr. Ludovico Piavi, later becoming the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Fr. Luigi Canali, Minister General. He was ordained a priest on August 17th, 1856, and in 1858, he went to the friary of St. Bartholomew on the Island, in Rome to prepare for the mission in China. In 1860, he was assigned to Shanxi. He first spent several years in the Tianjin area. When he moved to Taiyuan, he was made Mission Promoter, director of the orphanage and choir master in the seminary. After the death of Msgr. Paolo Carnevali of Fresonara, he was made coadjutor of Bishop Moccagatta, Vicar Apostolic of Shanxi, on January 28th, 1876. He set to work at once, tackling the most arduous and difficult pastoral visits, traveling from the outskirts of Taiyuan to a distance of up to 450 km, on rough roads, by donkey or on foot. He also rebuilt the famous Marian shrine called the "Portiuncula". Famine and plague added to his difficulties. When he took over the Vicariate on the death of Msgr. Moccagatta on September 6th, 1891, he established a Novitiate to provide the benefit of Franciscan life for the Chinese of all four vicariates in Shanxi, and a rest home for overworked missionaries. He also enlarged the orphanage and built others. He was assiduous in hearing confessions, giving catechisms to both children and adults, and helping the poor and supporting the missionaries. On the eve of martyrdom, he was asked to flee and hide, he replied: "Ever since I was twelve, I have desired and also asked God for martyrdom. Now that this longed-for hour has come, must I run away?" He was executed by the Governor of Shanxi on July 9, 1900.

    Franciscus Fogolla - bishop
    Franciscus Fogolla was born in Montereggio, diocese of Pontremoli on October 4th, 1839, to Gioacchion and Elisabetta Ferrari, who gave him a strong moral upbringing. Later, in Parma, he found his vocation as a Franciscan and missionary in 1858. He took the Franciscan habit and made his religious profession on August 21st, 1859. After completing his high school studies and philosophy in Cortemaggiore and Bologna, he studied theology in Parma where he was ordained a priest on September 19th, 1863. Next came studies at St. Bartholomew on the Island in Rome. He left for China on December 13th, 1866. There he joined Msgr. Grassi in Taiyuan, Shanxi, and began his missionary work. He committed himself to visiting the parishes in the north, and south as Vicar General, administering the sacraments and preaching to both Christians and non-Christians. At the same time he studied the classics to deepen his knowledge of the Chinese language. This made him able to teach the missionaries and win the esteem of the people. He also rid the Church of abuses, and improved the education and customs of his followers so that their numbers increased. He defended against official oppression and gained credence in the courts. He was chosen to be the official preacher at two diocesan synods, 1880 and 1885. When his life was threatened by serious illnesses, he was recalled to Taiyuan, but on recovery was named Vicar General for Tianjin area. He succeeded in getting the Mandarins' permission for Christians to qualify for the arts degree. The Turin Exhibition in 1897 and his presentation won him high honors and widespread support of the Shanxi missions. While in Paris, he was consecrated Coadjutor to Msgr. Grassi on August 24th, 1898, and his travels through France, Belgium and England with four Chinese seminarians raised the funds needed for the mission in China. Nine young priests and seven Sisters, Fanciscan Missionaries of Mary, came back to Taiyuan with him.

    When he arrived back in Taiyuan, he was caught in the final storm of the Boxer persecution and was executed by Yuxian, Governor of Shanxi, on July 9, 1900. He had given this reply to his brother's invitation to return to Italy, saying, "I will die with my weapons in hand, to fight hell and fly to heaven."

    Elias Facchini - priest
    Elias Facchini was born on July 2nd, 1839 in Reno Centese, Province of Ferrara, Archdiocese of Bologna, and was the third and youngest child of Francesco and Marianna Guaraldi. In character, he was somewhat like his namesake, the Prophet Elias, rough but strong, and incapable of compromise. His reply to the persecutors of Taiyuan was, "My faith is of steel; it may break, but it does not bend." The foundations of this moral nobility, which led him to martyrdom, were established in the solitude and silence at the novitiate at the Friary of Le Grazie, Rimini. He made his religious profession on November 1st, 1859, and was ordained a priest on December 18th, 1864. He was described by Fr. Luigi Canali, later becoming Minister General and Bishop, as a priest "he was of sound morals and sacred virtues, a model of the true Franciscan apostle and worthy to die for Christ." In 1866, after religious institutes were suppressed, he made the usual preparation at St. Bartholomew on the Island, in Rome where he met up with his companion in studies, Fr. Fogolla, and replaced him in the work of the Taiyuan to direct the native seminary, teaching literature and theology. He also compiled a large Latin-Chinese dictionary and a philosophical and theological compendium. He was a theologian, an author, and the secretary of Bishop Moccagatta. He took part in the two Synods of the Vicariate, in 1880 and 1885, and the third Synod of Shanxi. He taught and formed a whole generation of indigenous priests, who later, in the hour of trial, proved they were worthy of their teacher, by offering their lives for their faith. In 1893, he became Superior and Novice Master of the Friary of Dongergou, which Msgr. Grassi had built, but was soon recalled to teach his younger followers at Tiayuan. At the beginning of 1900, he foresaw his imminent martyrdom with the words:"If they kill me, I will get to heaven all the sooner. My body is already worn out. I will thank the Lord if I have to die for the faith." He was executed on July 9th, 1900 by the Governor of Shanxi.

    Theodoricus Balat - Priest
    Theodoricus Balat was born on October 28th, 1858 in St. Martin de Tours in the diocese of Albi. He loved to play on words, which made his confreres call him "The good Albigensian". His parents, Giovanni Francesco and Rosa Taillefer, tried to give him a deeply Christian education. Although he was a frank and restless, he was nonetheless generous and averse to the temptations of evil. At the age of eleven, he entered the Lavour minor seminary where he was noted for his docility, diligence and moral conduct. He also joined the Franciscan Third Order. The next step was to enter the major seminary in Albi, where, following the visit of a Franciscan priest who spoke about the missions, he decided to take the Franciscan habit. He did so at the novitiate of the province of St. Louis in Pon on June 29, 1880, taking the name of Theodoricus. His simple profession followed on June 30th, 1881, in Woodlands, England, and his solemn vows on July 2nd, 1884 Theordoricus arrived in China on October of 1884. His missionary travels had a romantic quality and his zeal and remarkable piety were crowned with great success. Modeling a life as a missionary, he converted many Chinese to the faith. His Bishop, Msgr. Grassi, gave him various delicate roles, such as a teacher in the minor seminary, Master of Novices, promoter of the missions, chaplain to the Sisters, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, and chaplain of the orphanage. He continued his duties even during times of persecution, saying when he was advised to flee, "My duty is to remain." His great self-control did not abandon him even in prison. When the tyrant, Yu Xian, arrived with his soldiers, Theodoricus was calmly saying his breviary. He stood up, gave the Sisters his final blessing and courageously shared the palm of martyrdom with them. He died before they did, and was executed on July 9, 1900 by the Governor of Shanxi.

    Andreas Bauer - Friar
    Andreas was born on November 24th, 1866, in Guebwiller, Alsace, in France. His parents were Luca and Lucia Moser. In his late teens he joined the Franciscan Third Order and at the age of twenty, he was clothed as an Oblate in England, where he had gone to comply with France's military laws. Recalled to Paris, he served his country faithfully for three years in his chosen regiment, the Cuirassiers. When he completed his duty, he returned to the Frairy where he made his first profession. Later, he joined Msgr. Fogolla's group on mission to China, fulfilling a desire that he had had from the very beginning of his religious life. Arriving in Taiyuan on May 4, 1899, he was entrusted by Bishop Grassi with managing the lay personnel of the mission station as well as the surgery. Here he waited calmly for the storm of Boxer persecutions in 1900, and, he won the palm of martyrdom. He wrote to his brother earlier in the year, "We are at the dawn of a new century. I do not know what is in store for us. Oh! If only I too, like the good thief, could reach Paradise!" Only a few months later, a soldier asked him to put out his hands so that he could bind them. Andreas knelt down, kissed the chains, and went singing to the place of execution. This execution was personally ordered and supervised by the Governor of Shanxi on July 9, 1900.

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