Saint Augustine Chao and 119 companions

Saint Augustine Chao and 119 companions
Born: 17th – 20th Century
Died: d 1648-1930
Feast Day: 9th July
Canonised: 1st October 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Christianity arrived in China in 600’s, sometimes it has been free to grow, and other times has been forced to operate in secret.  The 120 Martyr’s in this group include 87 born in China from the ages of 9 to 72 including 4 priests.  The 33 foreign born martyrs were mainly priests.

The first persecutions were in 1648 with the beheading of a priest Francis Fernandez de Capillas, 1729 and 1746 saw the next round of persecutions where 4 more priests were martyred.  The third wave of persecutions included the following:-
·   Peter Wu, a Chinese lay catechist. Born of a pagan family, he received baptism in 1796 and passed the rest of his life proclaiming the Christian religion. He was sentenced and strangled on 7 November 1814.
·   Joseph Zhang Dapeng, a lay catechist, and a merchant. Baptised in 1800, he evangelised in the city of Kony-Yang. He was imprisoned and strangled on 12 March 1815.
·   Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Society was put to death in 1815.
·   Fr Augustine Zhao Rong, a Chinese diocesan priest. He had been a soldier who had escorted Monsignor Dufresse from Chengdu to Beijing and was moved by his patience and asked to be baptised; he was then sent to the seminary and then ordained a priest. Arrested, he suffered the most cruel tortures and died in 1815.
·   Fr John da Triora OFM was put in prison together with others in the summer of 1815, condemned to death, and strangled on 7 February 1816.
·   Fr Joseph Yuan, a Chinese diocesan priest. Greatly influenced by Mgr Dufresse, Joseph was baptised and ordained and preached Christianity in various districts. Arrested in August 1816 and strangled on 24 June 1817.
  • Vincentian priest Fr Francis Regis Clet set out for China in 1791 and for thirty years evangelised three provinces of the Chinese Empire: Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan. Betrayed by a Christian, arrested, imprisoned, he was tortured and strangled on 17 February 1820.
  • Fr Thaddeus Liu, a Chinese diocesan priest. Condemned to death and strangled on 30 November 1823.
  • Chinese lay catechist Peter Liu. He was arrested in 1814 and condemned to exile in Tartary, where he remained for almost twenty years. Returning to his homeland he was again arrested and was strangled on 17 May 1834.
  • Chinese lay catechist Joachim Ho. He was baptised aged twenty. In the great persecution of 1814, he was tortured and sent into exile in Tartary, where he remained for almost twenty years. Returning to his homeland he was arrested again and refused to apostatise. Following that, the death sentence was confirmed by the Emperor, and he was strangled on 9 July 1839.
  • Paris Foreign Missionary priest Fr Augustus Chapdelaine went to China in 1852. He arrived in Guangxi at the end of 1854. Arrested in 1856, he was tortured, condemned to death in prison, and died in February 1856.
  • Chinese layman Laurence Bai Xiaoman, an unassuming worker. He joined Fr Chapdelaine in the refuge that was given to the missionary and was arrested with him and brought before the tribunal. Nothing could make him renounce his religious beliefs. Beheaded on 25 February 1856.
  • Agnes Cao Guiying, a widow, born into an old Christian family. She was dedicated to the instruction of young girls who had recently been converted by Fr Chapdelaine. Arrested, imprisoned and executed on 1 March 1856.
  • Three catechists, known as the Martyrs of MaoKou (in the province of Guizhou) were killed on 28 January 1858, by order of the Mandarin of MaoKou: Jerome Lu Tingmei, Laurence Wang Bing, Agatha Lin Zao. All three were asked to renounce Christianity. They refused and were beheaded.
  • Two seminarians and two lay people, one of whom was a farmer, the other a widow who worked as a cook in the seminary, suffered martyrdom together on 29 July 1861. They are known as the Martyrs of Qingyanzhen (Guizhou): Seminarians Joseph Zhang Wenlan and Paul Chen Changpin, along with John Baptist Luo Tingying, a layman, and Martha Wang Luo Mande, a laywoman.
  • In the following year, on 18 and 19 February 1862, another five people gave their life for Christ. They are known as the Martyrs of Guizhou: Fr John Peter Neel, a priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, and four lay catechists – Martin Wu Xuesheng, John Zhang Tianshen, John Chen Xianheng, and Lucy Yi Zhenmei.

A reprieve from persecutions came when China signed the first international treaty of it’s time in 1842, this was a time of Christian expansion until the Boxer Rebellion 1899-1900 when there was a push for re-instatement of Chinese values.  The following were martyred during this period: -
·   The Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on 9 July 1900, who were Franciscan Friars Minor: these were two Franciscan bishops – Bishops Gregory Grassi and Francis Fogolla, two priests – Frs Elias Facchini and Theodoric Balat, and one religious’ brother, Brother Andrew Bauer.
·   The Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscan Friars Minor: Bishop Anthony Fantosati, and Fathers Joseph Mary Gambaro and Cesidio Giacomantonio, martyred around the same time.
·   There were also seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, three of whom were French, two Italian, one Belgian, and one Dutch: Sisters Mary Hermina of Jesus (Irma Grivot), Mary of Peace (Mary Ann Giuliani), Mary Clare (Clelia Nanetti), Mary of the Holy Birth (Joan Mary Kerguin), Mary of Saint Justus (Ann Moreau), Mary Adolfine (Ann Dierk), and Mary Amandina (Paula Jeuris).
·   There were also eleven secular Franciscans, all Chinese: five of these were seminarians: John Zhang Huan, Patrick Dong Bodi, John Wang Rui, Philip Zhang Zhihe, John Zhang Jingguang; six others were laymen, catechists, servants and labourers: Thomas Shen Jihe, Simon Qin Cunfu, Peter Wu Anbang, Francis Zhang Rong, Matthew Feng De, Peter Zhang Banniu.
·   Other Chinese lay faithful were James Yan Guodong, farmer, James Zhao Quanxin, manservant, Peter Wang Erman, cook.
·   Four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children – the oldest of them being 79 years old, while the youngest were aged only nine years all suffered martyrdom in the month of July 1900.
·   The Jesuits priests were: Fathers Leo Mangin, Paul Denn, Rémy Isoré, Modeste Andlauer,
·  The Chinese lay Christians were as follows: Mary Zhu born Wu (aged about 50 years), Peter Zhu Rixin (19), John Baptist Zhu Wurui (17), Mary Fu Guilin (37), Barbara Cui born Lian (51), Joseph Ma Taishun (60), Lucy Wang Cheng (18), Mary Fan Kun (16), Mary Chi Yu (15), Mary Zheng Xu (11), Mary Du born Zhao (51), Magdalene Du Fengju (19), Mary du born Tian (42), Paul Wu Anjyu (62), John Baptist Wu Mantang (17), Paul Wu Wanshu, aged 16, Raymond Li Quanzhen, (59), Peter Li Quanhui (63), Peter Zhao Mingzhen (61), John Baptist Zhao Mingxi (56), Teresa Chen Tinjieh (25), Rose Chen Aijieh (22), Peter Wang Zuolung (58), Mary Guo born Li (65), Joan Wu Wenyin (50), Zhang Huailu (57), Mark Ki-T’ien-Siang (66), Ann An born Xin (72), Mary An born Guo (64), Ann An born Jiao (26), Mary An Linghua (29), Paul Liu Jinde (79), Joseph Wang Kuiju, aged 37, John Wang Kuixin (25), Teresa Zhang born He (36), Lang born Yang (29), Paul Lang Fu (9), Elizabeth Qin born Bian (54), Simon Qin Cunfu (14), Peter Liu Zeyu (57), Ann Wang  (4), Joseph Wang Yumei (68), Lucy Wang born Wang (31), Andrew Wang Tianqing (9), Mary Wang born Li (49), Chi Zhuze (18), Mary Zhao born Guo (60), Rose Zhao (22), Mary Zhao (17), Joseph Yuan Gengyin (47), Paul Ge Tingzhu (61), and Rose Fan Hui (45).
·   Alberic Crescitelli was a priest of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions of Milan (PIME), who carried out his ministry in Southern Shanxi. He was martyred on 21 July 1900.

Some years later, two members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the martyrs recorded above: Bishop Louis Versiglia and Father Callistus Caravario were killed together on 25 February 1930 at Li-Thau-Tseul.