Samoa: Champagnat Group from Marist Primary and St Joseph's College, Apia, made their annual retreat
1897: The first Marist Brothers left for Brazil
On the 21st April 1951 Brother Joche-Albert was executed in Sichang (China). In this year in which we have highlighted the memory of our martyrs and saints, the anniversary of the death of Joche-Albert invites us again to revive his memory and the best of their lives. The circumstances of the death of Brother Joche-Albert coincide with tormented years in the history of China in its long march to its best days that it is now enjoying. In whatever case, beyond the circumstances of his death, we are sure he led a life committed to God in the service of his brothers.
Brother Joche Albert, executed at Sichang, on the 21st April 1951
Testimony of Father Carriquiry, Administrator of Sichang, Dean of the cathedral of Singapore - 29th April 1959
Brother Albert, a Chinese Marist, directed successfully the Catholic College of Sichang when the communists took hold of the city on the 26th March 1950, Passion Sunday.
Before the “Liberation”
Brother Albert proclaimed the truth about communism to the people he spoke to, Christians and pagans, warning them against the lies and the tactics which he had experienced himself in Shantong. To those who said to him, “Be careful, Brother Albert… when they are here you will be denounced,” he responded, “No matter, the truth must be known!” They suggested to him to retire to Formosa. He wrote, “I am disposed to do what the Superiors decide. If I must stay here and God wishes it, I am ready to shed my blood for him.”
After the “Liberation”
At the college: As Director, he was extra zealous in maintaining the Christian spirit in the Institution and he succeeded.
Subject to re-education, with the rest of the teaching body, he was a model of regularity and renouncement; but also a merciless and clever opponent when it was necessary to defend God and the Church. There also, his friends used to say to him, “Be careful… Brother Albert…” And his response was always the same.
At the service of the Diocese
The diocesan administration found itself faced with new and difficult problems. They had recourse to his experience, his drive, his ability; several times he devoted himself to be the spokesperson for the Bishop with the authorities; he never refused his help; he never hesitated to compromise himself.
It seems that very quickly the communists who were well informed understood the value of Brother Albert and saw in him a formidable adversary: a man to be won over or suppressed.
The Three Autonomies
On the 14th December (I believe) 1950, Brother Albert was called to the Court, in the company of another brother, his colleague, and a layman, President of Catholic Action. It was to subscribe to the manifest of the Three Autonomies. Brother Albert spoke: it was a polite refusal, but categorical and definitive.
This interview was to decide his fate: it was obvious that Brother Albert would be difficult if not impossible to win over. He was incarcerated some weeks after, on the 6th January 1951, for conspiracy against the State.
The communist jails are hermetic in general, and little news filtered out. Here, however, we have the precious testimony of a young Protestant, detained for some time in the same prison and then freed: “Brother Albert was extremely charitable; he shared everything that he had, spare clothes and food, contenting himself with nearly nothing.” And to support his words he showed the habit that he was wearing, alms of a prisoner.
Last Interview, Last Message
On the occasion of the Chinese New Year, the 12th February (I think), I was admitted to see him and to speak with him for a few minutes in front of his guards. He received absolution and Holy Communion and seemed delighted. His last words were: “Tell Monseigneur, the Fathers, the Sisters and the Brothers that I am thinking of them.” It was a promise of fidelity, perhaps of intercession. Some time before his death, we received a small bit of cardboard from him on which he had written, “I have not forgotten God…” This was his last message.
He did not appear in public, as the others, they feared his irresistible dialectic. He was talked about a great deal, but with out him, meetings or gatherings would conclude always by; “Traitor to his country: he deserves death!”
He was executed, with some others, on the 21st April, close to the ramparts of Sichang.
Hatred for the faith
It is impossible to find another reason for the martyrdom of Brother Albert. The conspiracy story was improbable and no one believed it. The testimony of a co-detained, his friend (executed with him) was, as all knew, obtained by torture.
As to the other testimonies of the same kind, here is a fact that illustrates the value of them: At the end of a meeting during which he had violently accused Brother Albert, a poor man from Sichang asked a Catholic friend: “But who is this Brother Albert?” The other, astonished: “You have just witnessed against him, and you do not know him?” And the false witness answered: “No, all that I said against him was dictated to me by the communists; and that’s despite me…”
The true reason
For the communists, Brother Albert was the most intelligent and the most ardent of the Catholics of Sichang; he incarnated faith and Catholic resistance. And here is another proof: After my arrest, communist spies came to see me, feigning sympathy for the diocese “deprived of such an important leader”. Another fact: immediately after his arrest, they started to talk about the Three Autonomies; and especially after his execution.
During his captivity, would one keep speaking to him about the Three Autonomies? Wouldn’t one make other proposals, with promises and threats? It is probable; the opposite would be surprising. In any case, what is obvious is that Brother Albert remained faithful until death…
I hope that this short exposé will have demonstrated that Brother Albert, despite the knowledge he had about the danger, stayed faithful to his post, in service to the Church, faithful to the Truth, faithful to God. He had accepted beforehand to shed his blood for God.
To finish, I the undersigned, Philippe Carriquiry, of the Foreign Missions of Paris, Missionary of Sichang, Vicar General during the events, declare, in conscience, that my sincere and circumstantial conviction, established on the facts narrated above of which I was the closest witness, is that Brother Albert, executed at Sichang, on the 21st April 1951, was put to death in hatred of the faith.
Done at Singapore, 29th (or 19th) April 1959.
Ph. Carriquiry - Administrator of Sichang,
Dean of the Cathedral of Singapore.
I the undersigned, René Girard, of the Foreign Missions of Paris, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Malacca-Singapore, declare and certify that the present writing was written in Singapore by the signatory whose name appears above.
René Girard, - Chancellor, 22nd April 1959
The original of this letter was sent to Brother Alessandro, Procurator General to the Holy See, the 23rd April 1959, to serve in the cause of beatification of Brother Joche Albert – Brother André Gabriel, former Provincial of China.
Extract from a letter
from the brothers of Sichang to the Provincial after the death of Brother Joche-Albert:
“My dear Brother Provincial, we are more united with you at the present moment. We are praying for you and for our Province several times each day. All the miseries have done nothing else but advance us in fervour. We are more religious than at any other moment, and thanks to God and to the Holy Virgin, we are proud of our faith and of our vocation. If one day the good God calls us, as he called Brother Joche-Albert, be sure that we will always be children of Mary and we will give our life with a heart full of resignation and joy…”
On the 8th September 1979, Brother Laurence Tung On, Provincial, sent to Brother Basilio the following report on the brothers of China:
1-Since 1950, 26 brothers have died in China, of whom
Brother Jules André, died of hunger and of cold,
Brother André Joseph Wei; died after a public judgement, in 1975.
Brother Augustin Liu – Beaten to death by batons.
Brother Antoine Hsio – died in a work camp.
Brother Marcellin Yang – died in a work camp.
Brother Ernest Chang – died in a work camp.
Brother Marie Xavier Chang – died in prison.
2-23 other brothers are still living, of whom seven are constrained to working in the farms of inner Mongolia;
Brother Damien Chang, Visitor, has done eight years in prison.
Brother Emile Chang – condemned to 15 years of prison since 1974 because he was teaching the catechism.
A marvellous fidelity
As soon as the brothers had the first contact with the Congregation, the first visit from a Superior coming from Rome, after nearly thirty years of solitude, they asked to renew their vows; they sang the Salve Regina with him and said in French the traditional prayers of our family.
The tradition of martyrdom
In the Province of China there is a tradition of martyrdom.
1-In 1900, during the Boxers revolution, four brothers were killed: Brother Jules-André, third Visitor of China, Brother Joseph Félicité, Director de Chala, the young Chinese brother, Marie-Adon and the postulant, Paul Jen.
2-In 1906, on the 26th February, the five brothers of the community of Nantchang were massacred by a mob of rioters. They were Brothers Louis-Maurice, Prosper-Victor, Joseph-Amphien, Marius and Léon, Superior of the community.
Suggestion for Prayer
The letter below may be used as a text for prayer, by leaving some time for silence.
Start with a hymn of praise to God.
After the reading of the martyrdom of Brother Joche-Albert, choose a hymn that speaks of the Lordship of Christ or one of the hymns of the office of martyrs.
At the end of the text, if time permits, give some time for people to repeat words or phrases that struck them, to share together about the passage or for spontaneous prayer.
Father Philippe Carriquiry, (1911-1960), of the Foreign Mission of Paris, was the Vicar General and then the Administrator of the diocese of Sichang when Brother Joche-Albert was executed. There was a second Vicar General, Father Du Noyer, from whom we also have a letter on the martyrdom of Brother Joche-Albert. The bishop at the time was Bishop Baudry, elderly and suffering from blindness. He had already been bishop of Ningyuanfu in 1925. We have here a first hand testimony.