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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 DIONISIO PAMPLONA

BLESSED MARTYR DIONISIO PAMPLONA

(1868-1936)

 

When the Spanish civil war broke out, July 18, 1936, Fr. Dionisio Pamplona was the Rector of the Piarist House in Peralta de la Sal, native place of the Founder of the Pious Schools Order, St.Joseph Calasanz. Under his care was also the Parish Church of the town.

 

He had arrived to Peralta in July 1934, after he had carried out the Piarist ministry in different schools of the Piarist Aragon Province. It was rather a coming back because in the same house he had been as a novice and also a Master of novices and Rector.

 

In spite that Peralta was a very small town, the situation was difficult for the Piarist Fathers when the revolution arrived and the consequences of the civil war. Fr. Dionisio was very soon aware of the reality. In a letter to his cousin Rosario, written in July 1936, he wrote in this way:

 

“We are going through very difficult times and it is necessary to behave with much prudence so that nobody could tell us that we are out of our place. It was always necessary in the fulfillment of our duty, but today it is a must”.

 

Encouraged by this conviction, Fr. Dionisio had the courage of celebrating the Mass in the Parish Church even after the war broke out. Only one person was present. At the offertory time, he was forced to stop the celebration and to leave the church.

 

The political climate of Peralta had changed: there were approaching days of testing for the Piarist Community who looked for the necessary strength in prayer, so to face the inevitable suffering and even the martyrdom, if necessary.

 

Fr. Faustiono Oteiza, in an important letter sent to Fr. Provincial of Aragon, describes in this way what happened on July 23, 1936:

 

“On July 23, at around 4:30 P. M. , a radical  group from Binefar town arrived, of about 40 or 50, armed with bombs, etc., with the intention of bombing and burning the school. When we knew that, we got together in the chapel of the Novitiate, received the absolution and waited in peace the death…But the people from the town could avoid it on the condition that they should take us out of the house and burn all that meant religious things. After that, the communist comity came to communicate to us to leave the school; we resisted - especially Fr. Rector – as much as we could, but we had to give up before the force”.  

 

Thinking about the development of the things, the Holy Sacrament had been taken from the church of the school to the chapel of the novitiate, considering it a safer place. The Religious were convinced that as soon as those people from Binefar would go out of the town, they could return to their own house.

 

But things took another turn. At around 20:30 P. M. of the sad July 23, Fr. Rector, the other Fathers and Brothers of the Community, the novices and postulants were led, with very well armed people, to the house of the Llari family, transformed for that occasion in a provisional jail. They gave some for supper, and some friend persons brought mattress for sleeping. Fr. Dionisio, Rector, received from the Committee the order of sleeping.

 

At dawn, 24, Fr. Dionisio, worried about the Blessed Sacrament in the Church – it was possible to be defiled, although he was the only one who had the keys – showing a special courage, asked the novices if some would be ready to accompany him to the Parish and serve during the Mass. Jose Yanez offered himself. The two could go out opening from the interior the door that was facing the street, with a key they found, taking the chance that the guards were sleeping. 

 

In spite that they used all the means not to be seen, they were seen by someone, who immediately informed the Commintee. They sent people to meet them. First, they went to the houses where they thought they could have taken refuge, and later on, to the Parish, where  Fr. Dionisio had just finished his Mass and consumed the Eucharistic Hosts.

 

The church was surrounded. One man, after seeing Fr. Dionisio looking out from a high window, told him: “Come down, come down; you will not be able to escape”. Fr. Dionisio, giving once more a proof of his courage, went out immediately with Jose Yanez, locked the door, and kept in his hand the keys of the church. 

 

When he arrived to the steps of the staircase that leads to the entrance of the church facing the Major Plaza, he was surrounded by armed men. Jose Yanez, in fear, ran to the house of Llari. They asked Fr.Dioniso to handle the keys of the church, but he answered with resolution: “I don’t handle the keys but to the Bishop who is the one who gave them to me”. Again he was asked, while a man was aiming at him from behind his nape, with a rifle, threatening him with death. He continued refusing. Even in such circumstances he would refuse to handle the keys. A friend of the priest, seeing that he was at the point of being killed, shouted to him: “By God, Fr. Rector, handle him the keys, since they are going to kill you”. Fr. Dionio, by instinct, turned the head to the place from where the voice came, and using this distraction, the keys were taken away from the left hand, where he had them.

 

Them he tried to go to the house of Llari, to be with his brothers, but he was stopped and they checked him: the rosary, medals, the prayer book, everything was dropped down to the ground. The money of the school he carrying with himself, was taken away, too. Immediately was taken to the City Hall. Half an hour later, with two men with rifles, was taken to the jail.

 

The same 24 of July, at around 3:00 P.M., he was taken handcuffed to the jail of Monzon City, being also treated with insults and bad manners. Among some things, somebody said: “You will pay heavily”, a way of saying that he was going to be killed soon.

 

In Monzon City, he went out of the car at the entrance of the jail. Upon doing that, his hat went off, and one of those who accompanied him, put it on his head, giving him, at the same time, a strong knock. Fr. Pamplona, with serenity and resigned, gave him thanks. He was put inside the jail number 1, the first of the three cells found at the right isle, on the ground floor, a cell very humid, obscure and dirty.

 

He remained in that cell with serenity and tranquillity, until late at night of  July 25, feast of St. James the Apostle Upon arriving to Monzon City the group called P.O.U.M. (Maxist Unification Working Party, of anarchist ideology), it was decided to shoot the prisoners on the Major Plaza.

 

At around 10:30 P.M., he was taken out of the jail. Since his cassock was full of dust and cobwebs, from the jails in Peralta and Monzon, he asked the jail-keeper a brush to clean it. After he cleaned it, he gave the brush back, and just slapping the jail-keeper smoothly on the shoulder, told him: “Goodbye, till the eternity”. 

 

From the jail, he was led, together with the other prisoners, to the Major Plaza, full of people and very well lighted. Since he was the only priest, he was put in front, as a preferable aim. He was thin and tall. He was distinguished by the others because of his cassock. He was serene, strong, tranquil. From time to time, he used to lift his eyes to heaven and moved his lips in prayer. When the order of firing was given, he made the sign of the cross and put his crossed arms upon his breast. It was around 11:00 P.M., on July 25, when he felt down by the bullets, while he cried: “Long live Christ the King”.

 

Half an hour later, his body was taken away and put in a truck, together with the other 24 people shot, and later on were buried in a common tomb of the cemetery of Monzon City.

The execution of Fr. Dioniso Pamplona and the others condemned, carried out in the Major Plaza, before hundreds of people, was a shock and caused uneasiness to great part of the people. That is why the new shootings, did not happen there anymore. After the war was finished, that Plaza was called “Plaza of the Martyrs”, and on the front façade of  Aragon Bank, a plate was placed with the following inscription:

 

R.I.P

R.P. Dionios Pamplonma, Escolapio

Martyr for God and for Spain in this place,

on July 25, 1936

 

Fr.Dionisio Pamplona was the first of the Servants of God, killed in the fulfillment of his priesthood. The heroic death, facing it with a serene and with an admirable strength of spirit, is not but the conclusion of an existence lived “for God’s glory and utility of the neighbor”, following the example of St. Joseph Calasanz.

 

Fr. Dionisio was born in a family with a strong faith, in Calamocha town, Teruel Province. He was the only child. His parents were Santiago and Damiana. He soon felt the desire of becoming a priest in the Pious Schools Order.

 

He started his novitiate, taking the Piarist Habit in Peralta de la Sal, on November 16, 1882, where he made his first Profession on August 2, 1885. His Philosophical studies were made in Irache, Navarra Province, and his Theological studies in St. Peter de Cerdena, Leon Province, where he emitted his Solemn Profession on November 17, 1889. He was ordained as a Priest in Jaca City, Huesca Province, on September 7, 1893.

 

When he finished his formation period, his life and his efforts were completely dedicated

to the education of children and youth in different schools of the Piarist Aragonian Province. This is his itinerary: Jaca (1890-1891), Sos del Rey Catolico (1891-1894), Zaragoza (1894-1895), Alcaniz (1895-1903), again Jaca (1903-1905), Peralta de la Sal (1905-1913), Pamplona (1913-1919), Buenos Aires (Argentine) (1919-1922), second time in Pamplona (1922-1928), Barbastro (1928-1934) and again Peralta (1934-1936).

 

He had a deep religious personality, being at the same time strict and paternal. It could be seen during the period when he was a Master of Novices during six years, during the three years spent in Buenos Aires and when he was rector in Pamplona.

 

As a Master of Novices he dedicated with enthusiasm and total offering to the formation of the future Piarists, who later on remembered him with love and veneration.

 

Fr. Angel Clavero used to say that by nature, he was an austere Religious, and by conviction, faithful to the Religious Observance, perseverant in action, spiritual and a pious priest. He knew rather well the hearts of people, knew how to imbue solid Christian virtues in the young people entrusted to him, more with examples than with words. He used to act in a discrete way, but with efficiency.

 

When he was rector in Peralta de la Sal - Fr. Valentin Aisa says - he gave proofs of great prudence and zeal in promoting the religious life and the educational activity, taking care that the students would progress not only in  human letters and sciences, but also in virtue. He knew how to impress with his personality and he attracted the wills of people, gaining the sympathies of all.

 

In Pamplona, on the other hand, manifested his priestly zeal, giving life to religious movements and functions in the church at school, following the liturgical times, re-living the devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Virgin, and promoting the active participation of the faithful, specially the children and youth. Among his merits we can cite the establishment of the “Eucharistic Turns”, with the intention of promoting the frequent communion.

 

In Buenos Aires, Argentine, although he remained there only three years, he left a good remembrance. Besides being Rector, he was Parish Priest of the “Saint Joseph Calasanz” Parish, belonging to the school, in a popular district of more than 40000 people. If as Rector of the School, he could not get what he wanted because of the circumstances, his work as a Parish Priest was excellent and left many fruits. At the Parish, he could show better his gifts of Religious and Priest, through a profound apostolic action. In reality, he was a model Parish Priest: her lived for his people, without taking into consideration the fatigues and struggles to stimulate the piety or attending the sick. He never put a limit to his apostolic zeal. He realized his responsibility and he had chosen better to die, as he did, more than being a traitor. He had the happiness and seeing built and consecrated a rich marvel altar to St. Joseph Calasanz, titular Patron of the Parish, a gift from Mrs. Ines Ortiz, a great benefactor, who had helped, she alone, in the expenses of the construction of the church.

 

In Buenos Aires, Fr. Dionisio was considered as a good Superior and very good Director of the School, and he gave proofs of having the gift of an apostle and of a Parish priest, always realizing his duties.

 

His Priestly zeal, so much manifested during the good circumstance in Buenos Aires, was re-lived when in 1935 was entrusted to him the Parish of Peralta de la Sal. Facing the grave situation he had, after the Parish Priest had left the place, the hart of Fr. Dionisio was deeply moved. He himself narrates it in a letter written to his friend Fr. Angel Arnaz, then Parish Priest in Buenos Aires:

 

“I have to communicate to you a novelty, which I am sure will please everybody. Since here the Government does not pay the Parish Priests, and the towns don’t do either, because they are not accustomed or educated for that, it happens that some priests leave the towns and the towns remain without priests. It is the case regarding Peralta de la Sal. In this case, the faith is naturally lost and the customs are corrupted, and it seems that we are in plain “Pampas”. Being the things like this, and wanting to put a remedy, I offered myself to the Bishop of Urgel, having before the permission of our Provincial, to take the place of the Parish Priest, and his Rev. Ex., on November 21, 1935, has named me a Regent of the Parish of Peralta de la Sal, so that in everything, I may take the place of the Parish Priest. Pray for me so that everything might go well and I could not only keep, but also increase the faith of this town so loved by us”.

 

He was a Parish Priest of Peralta de la Sal for a short time, but it was enough to show his enthusiasm and the un-selfish care of the faithful entrusted to him.

 

The secret of his zeal, as the secret of his interior life, was in the love for Jesus and Mary. Two loves that kept him firm during his whole life, but specially during the moment of the test before the shooting platoon, in the Major Plaza of Monzon City, during the night of July 25, 1936.

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