Cirilo Bertrán and 8
Companions, religious of the Institute of Brothers
Today the Church recognizes the holiness of nine Brothers of the Christian Schools and of a Passionist Father. Eight of these Brothers formed a community which ran a school in Turon in the centre of a mining valley of the Asturias, in the north-east of Spain; they were martyred in 1934.
The ninth Brother was from Catalonia and was martyred in 1937 near Tarragona. The Passionist Father had come to the school in Turon in order to hear the children's confessions. The Church is glorifying the whole ten because they remained faithful to their consecration even as far as giving their life for the faith and their evangelizing mission. The official recognition of their holiness exalts at the same time their mission - one that we know is delicate and difficult - as Christian educators of youth. And the fact that the eight Brothers of Turon will be the canonized members of a community may be a powerful stimulus for our educational communities.
They were in the main young religious: four were under twenty-six years, and the eldest was hardly 46. Below are their names and some information on each of them.
Brother CIRILO-BERTRAN (José SANZ TEJEDOR), director of the community of Turon. He was born on March 20th 1888 at Lerma, in the province of Burgos. His parents were ordinary workers and it is from them that he learnt austerity of life, the spirit of sacrifice and attachment to religion. On July 12th 1905 he entered the novitiate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools at Bujedo. During his apostolic life he showed much courage and zeal. His uncommon gifts of wisdom and prudence, allied to an intense spiritual life and a great apostolic zeal, led his superiors to entrust him with increasing responsibilities: Director of the school in Riotuerto, near Santander, then St Joseph's in Santander. In 1933, he was put in charge of the Notre Dame school of Covadonga, Turon. It was not an easy post, for the most fanatical protagonists of the proletarian revolution were at the heart of this mining region. The presence of the new Director gave confidence to the Brothers of the community who were fairly worried about what might happen: all had arrived recently, in civilian clothes, so as not to provoke incidents needlessly. During the summer of 1934, together with the other Brother Directors of the District of North Spain, he took part in a month's retreat at Valladolid: it was the immediate preparation for his meeting with the Lord in the martyrdom that took place a few months later.
Brother MARCIANO-JOSE (FILOMENO LOPEZ LOPEZ). He was born on November 17th 1900 at El Pedregal (Guadalajara). As one of a family of ordinary working people he learnt from his youth to endure the fatigue of work and to face up with courage to the difficulties of life. He was hardly 12 when he entered the Brother's juniorate at Bujedo, where he found one of his uncles, but a premature deafness obliged him to return to his family. As he insisted on being taken back into the Institute, he was admitted as a serving Brother. He made his first vows on July 9th 1919 and his final profession on July 9th, 1925. He was at Mieres in 1934 when he offered to take the place of a Brother who was frightened to go to Turon because of the social and political tensions that were far from promising. He had not been long in his new post when the Lord united his destiny in martyrdom with that of the other members of the community.
Brother VICTORIANO-PIO (CLAUDIO BERNABE CANO). He was born at San Milian de Lara (Burgos) on July 7th 1905 and was baptized the same day. He made his Lasallian training at Bujedo. He made his first vows in 1923. He had a passion for music: outside of class time, he was in charge of the choir in the schools to which he was appointed. On August 22nd 1930 he made his final vows. The sectarian laws of 1933 obliged the Brothers to change residence often through prudence. Brother Visitor asked him in 1934 to go to Turon with Brother Marciano to make up the numbers of the community. He was only a month in this school when the Lord asked of him the sacrifice of his life.
Brother JULIAN-ALFREDO (VILFRIDO FERNANDEZ ZAPICO). He was born on December 24th 1903 at Cifuentes de Rueda (Leon). The example of his parents and the influence of an uncle who was a priest with whom he had to live for a time after the premature death of his mother made him grow up in an atmosphere of piety and directed him while still very young towards the religious life. At the age of 17 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchins of Salamanca but shortly afterwards an unexpected illness obliged him to return to his family. Once cured, he asked unsuccessfully to be readmitted to the Capuchins. He then made acquaintance with the Brothers of the Christian Schools who accepted him at 22 as a novice at Bujedo. He made his first vows on August 15th 1927 and his final profession on August 28th 1932. It was in the course of his second year of apostolate that the Lord gave the crown of martyrs to this generous and faithful religious.
Brother BENJAMIN-JULIAN (VICENTE ALONSO ANDRES). He was born on October 7th 1908 at Jaramillo de la Fuente (Burgos). He was only 12 when he entered the juniorate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools at Bujedo where he did not shine at studies; he had therefore to extend his novitiate. He made his first vows on May 15th 1926, and on August 30th 1933, his final vows. He still met with great difficulties in teaching, but his firm will to succeed whatever the cost made him overcome them. His efforts were crowned with success so much so that when Brother Visitor wanted to move him from Saint James of Compostella to Turón, the families tried to keep him. But it was God's will that he should be at the school in Turón in 1934 when the time came to ask of him the gift of his life in martyrdom,
Brother HECTOR VALDIVIELSO (BENITO DE JESUS). He was born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) on October 31st 1910 of poor immigrants and baptized in the church of Saint Nicholas-de-Bari, in the centre of the capital where now stands the famous obelisk of July 9th. Financial difficulties constrained his parents to return to Spain. There he made acquaintance with the Brothers of the Christian Schools and decided to join them; he went in 1924 to Lembecq-lez-Hal (Belgium) to make his missionary novitiate, with the desire to go one day to work in his native country. However his superiors sent him in 1929 to the school in Astorga (León) where he worked wonders, then to Turón, in 1933. His devotedness to the young made of him a choice candidate for martyrdom which was soon to crown his existence. He is the first Argentine saint.
Brother ANICETO-ADOLFO (MANUEL SECO GUTIERREZ). At just twenty years old, he was the young Brother of the community. He was born at Celada Marlantes (Santander) on October the 1912 and very soon experienced the death of his mother. His father, who was to give three of his sons to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, guaranteed his children a solid Christian education. At 12, Manuel joined the juniorate at Bujedo. Shortly afterwards, he heard of the death of his father. On February 2nd 1930 he made his first vows; and in 1931 triennial vows. Two years later, having his teacher's diploma, he was appointed to the Institute of our Lady at Valladolid. He stayed there only one year, for the next summer he was sent to the school in Turhn. The serenity of his young face must certainly have impressed his assassins when they gave him the fatal blow.
Brother AUGUSTO-ANDRES (ROMAN MARTINEZ FERNANDEZ). He was born at Santander on May 9th 1910. From his father, a regular soldier, he inherited the sense of precision and order; from his mother, pious and sensitive, the gentleness that was admired by his teachers, school fellows and, later, his students. But his mother opposed her boy's desire to be a religious. He fell gravely ill and his mother made the vow not to oppose further her son's vocation if he recovered. He effectively was cured and could then enter the novitiate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Bujedo. He made his first vows on August 15th 1927, and in 1929 triennial vows, but he did not have the time to make his final vows because he was martyred a year earlier. He was, in effect, in Turón hardly a year when the tragic events demanded of this young man of 24 the generous gift of his life.
Father INOCENCIO DE LA INMACULADA (MANUEL CANOURA ARNAU). He was a Passionist Father who had come to hear the confessions of the children and who was still present when the Brothers' school was attacked. He was born on March 10th 1887 at S. Cecilia del Valle de Oro, near the Cantabrian coast in the province of Lugo (Galicia). At 14 he joined the seminary of the Passionist Fathers at Pefiafiel, near Valladolid. He made his novitiate at Deusto (Guiscaglia) and then continued his philosophy and theology. At Mieres, not far from Turón, he was given the sub-diaconate in 1910, the diaconate in 1912 and was ordained priest in 1920. His priestly ministry, especially as a preacher and a teacher, was spent in various towns. In 1934 he was in Mieres. God came to confer on him the palm of martyrdom in Turón, where the Brothers asked him to come and hear the confessions of the children of the school in preparation for the first Friday of the month. At dawn on October 5th 1934, militiamen went into the school and Father Inocencio underwent the same fate as the Brothers of the community.
The martyrdom of these nine religious did not happen unexpectedly. The political situation in Spain at the time was difficult: freemasons and communists wanted to seize power at all costs and destroy the religious traditions of the country. Their plan foresaw several moves against the Church, especially against priests and religious. They developed a campaign of hate and violence that in many cases led to ferocious massacres, no doubt beyond the intentions of the controlling groups.
The Asturias were a mining region with many immigrants leading a very hard life
and being uprooted from their environment and from their traditions. The
campaign of accusations against the middle class and the Church found among them
a very favourable terrain. At dawn on October 5th 1934, a group of rebels forced
their way into the Brothers' school in Turón. The Brothers and the Passionist
Father were imprisoned in the "House of the People" while waiting for