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THE ORDER OF THE PIOUS SCHOOLS THE PIARIST FATHERS IN ASIA

The Life Of St. Joseph Calasanz
Saints, Martys, & Venerables
Calasanzian Family

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BLESSED JOSE FERRER ESTEVE

BLESSED JOSEPH FERRER ESTEVE

(1904-1936)

 

On July 10, 1936, Fr. Jose Ferrer, Master of Novices, living in the Piarist Community of Albarracin, went to Algemesi, Valencia Province, Spain, his native town, to rest together with his family. He did not know that it was his last trip.

 

In Algemesi, since July 20, had started an antirreligious campaign, similar to other places in Spain. Many priests, Religious and even lay people were arrested during that summer and enclosed in the Cister Monastery called Fons Salutis, changed into a jail.

 

On September 26 were killed all who were, at that time, in that monastery-prison.

 

Fr. Ferrer remained hidden in the house of his parents. He spent the days praying and reading. He used to celebrate Mass only on feast days, with a special care, in the house of one cousin. The divine office was the food of his spiritual life. He used to recite it slowly and reflecting about what he red. Since he did not have other books at his disposition, he red many times a book about the Virgin Mary that he always had with himself. After the executions at ‘Fons Salutis” monastery, he never left home, not even to celebrate Mass.

 

At the end of September, he received the visit of Fr. Bernardo Castillo, a Piarist, too, who during his vacation in Alzira, in the house of his sister, fearing to be arrested, had gone back to Algenesi, where the Community was. Fr. Ferrer asked him to remain with him until he would find a safer place. Fr.Castillo did so, during some weeks, until he could find another place to be hidden.

 

Fr. Ferrer was advised to leave the house of his parents, a place too evident, and to hide in the house of his wet nurse. But he did not accept it because he thought that was useless  and because he did not want to be separated from his mother in those difficult circumstances.

 

The antirreligious campaign had become worse in Algemesi town, in an especial way after the establishment of Largo Caballero regime in Valencia, on November1, 1936. Friendly persons who had a high prestige in the town warned him that in a short time would arrive the militiamen to arrest him. Fr. Ferrer was not afraid of the death. On the contrary, he was prepared to accept it as a gift from God.

 

On November 9 happened the un-avoided thing. In the afternoon, two militiamen called with insistence on the door of Ferrer’s house. The mother understood immediately what was about. He tried to gain time and told his son to jump from the terrace trying to reach the other side of the road through the patio of other house. But the flight did not work well. A lady who lived in front, afraid of the scene, started to shout: “A man! A man…! His shouts were heard by a militiaman who lived near, and watching Fr. Ferrer who had jumped the fence of the patio, warned him with a pistol and called the other militiamen.

 

Fr. Ferrer did not show any apposition. He allowed them to arrest him and he followed the militiamen, who took him directly to jail, forcing his father to carry on his shoulder a stature of Saint Joseph that had found in his house and were going to burn it.        

 

The militiamen came back asking his father for the other Piarist, Fr. Bernardo Castillo. When the mother answered that they ignored his whereabouts, the militiamen tried to deceive her, telling her that they would try to do something for her son if she would reveal the whereabouts of her son Fr. Bernardo. The mother could not resist that ray of hope and Fr. Bernardo was also arrested and led to jail.

 

That same night, around 11 o’clock, a car stopped before the jail. Two militiamen came out with the intention of killing them. They were obliged to go out of the jail and to go on the car parting immediately towards Alcira town. A lady who saw the arrested go on the car affirms that they did not oppose anything at all.

 

After they went by Llombai town, near a factory called El Recholar, the car stooped and the two Piarist Fathetrs were obliged to go down and to stand at the side of the road. As soon as they put their feet on the side of the road, were killed at point-blank range.

 

After the execution, the militiamen went back to Llombai, without taking care of the bodies.

 

On the following day, by order of the Committee, the bodies of Fr. Ferrer and Fr.Castillo, were translated to the cemetery of Llombai and buried. A lady, informed by the guardin of the cemetery of the exact place  where they had been buried, put on the same place a sign, thinking that one day the two Religious would receive the proper honors. This allowed that after the war, in June 1939, the remains of the two religious were exhumed and placed, Fr. Jose Ferrer in the Crypt of the Agony of Christ in Algemesi and Fr. Bernardo Castillo in the cemetery of Alzira.

 

The parents of Fr. Ferrer were Jose and Francisca. Two pious farms from Valenmcia, with  properties of lands and a house. Their love and happiness were upon their only son, that with generosity offered him to the Lord as soon as he showed a sincere desire of becoming a Piarist. He was born in Algemesi, on February 17, 1904.

 

They educated the child with care, in the sound principles. The mother was specially happy watching her son serving Mass in the Parish, with much dignity. After he became six years old, he went to the Piarist Fathers of the city.

The environment he breathed At home and at school made Jose feel the desire of being like those Religious who dedicated their lives for the children.

 

When he became 13 years old, after finishing his first period of studies, Jose asked his parents the permission to enter the  Postulancy of Masia del Pilar of Godellera and to prepare himself to become a Piarist. The father and the mother accepted with joy what they thought the will of God, and so, in the summer of 1917, Jose joined a group of aspirants, of whom five became priests and two martyrs.

 

He took the Religious habit on August 7, 19129, in Albarracin. During the novitiate, that was in Albarracin, Fr. Ferrer behaved as a humble and happy Religious, diligent and pious, being an example for his Brothers and with a firm desire for Profession. This statement belongs to Fr. Calasanz Bau, who was his companion. He emitted his Solemn Profession on August 27, 1920.

 

The two years of Philosophy and one of Theology, were spent in Irache. He finished his second Juniorate in the Masia, three more years of Theology, under the direction of Fr.Manuel Soto. There he made his Solemn Profession, on February 18, 1925. He was ordained as a priest in December 1928.  

 

After he finished his formation, he fulfilled his Piarist ministry in Albacete, Albarracin, Algemesi and Utiel. In 1934 was nominated Master of Novices, in Albarracin, the Noticiate place.

 

His educational vocation was revealed clearly in the activities he carried out among the children and youth, with much satisfaction of Superiors and families. When he was free from educational or ministry commitments, he spent his time reading spiritual books and the study of the Holy Fathers. He cultivated, too, the sacred music, always ready to teach songs to the children and to sit down on the organ to make with more solemnity the liturgy and to relived the piety in the hearts of the faithful. We can say that during the two years he was in Albarracin, he was the official organist at the Cathedral, since he never said no to the invitations that he received from the diocesan cleric.

 

His piety was strong and his generous his zeal for the souls. His piety was a happy piety. He used to invent jokes and tricks toput away the daily routine and to make more joyful the community life, especially during the difficult times of the Republic.

 

It was really his profound piety, besides his qualities  as educator, what moved the Superiors to nominate him Master of Novices, with the dispensation of the canonical age. To the one who congratulated him for the nomination, he used to answer: “We must obey always”.    

 

His devotion to the Virgin Mary was also special. Judging from some of his writings, it is probably that he had made the Marian Servitude Vow. We keep one of his writing under the title of “The Calvary or union life with Jesus Christ”, full of solid doctrine and delicate expression. He has a revealing prayer of his desire of being always united with Christ in the fatigues and in the suffering.

 

“Give me an ardent thirst of working and suffering for your love, a great desire of being always united with You, a holy impatience of being myself full of your Divine Spirit. Give me also the grace of satiating this thirst with the water You drank… Give me the grace of working while suffering, forgotten by everybody, in such a way that nobody would recognize me or care for me, but You…”

 

We do not wonder why such marvelous soul might face martyrdom with such a serenity. Regarding this, the Piarist Fr. Antonio Cascales left for us this:

 

“I am sure that while his family tried to find a more secure place for him and being sorry because they could not find it.Fr. Ferret used to give them courage, waiting in peace in the Providence. He recited every day the prayer of preparation for the death that is in the vademecum of the Priests. When I got this book, I noticed the a sign was on the page where this prayer is written”.

 

Dalores Carbonell, one of the neighbors of his house, has left for us this testimony:

 

“Fr. Ferrer did not fear the death, but sometimes he manifested a little how they killed the people on the middle of the roads. He manifested that he wanted his life for God and the good of the children. I used to come out very much edified every time I talked with him”.

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