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    Jozef Segers

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    Jozef Segers (1868-1900). A CICM Martyr

    Chang Wen Chao Petrus

    Jozef Segers is born in St Niklaas, Belgium, on October 20, 1868. He professes his first vows on September 8, 1890. He is ordained priest on July 21, 1895. He leaves for East Mongolia, China, on September 17, 1895.

    “Already in 1898, the Boxers had started their activities by spreading false rumors[1]about the Christians and the missionaries. They enter Eastern Mongolia around Easter 1900 and start their propaganda in the region of Ta-ku (Dagu). Christians and missionaries take precautions. The orphans are placed, for safety, with the Christians. Many of the missionaries leave for Sung-chu-tsui-tzu, (Songshuzuizi), where they prepare the defense of the mission.” [2]

    Jozef Segers stays with the Christians in Laohugou. During the day he is hiding in the mountains. He returns to his residence for the night. In the morning of July 12, the Christians are observing that about five hundred soldiers are approaching Laohugou. Jozef flees the village for the mountains. On July 16, he leaves for Weichang in the company of two Christians. While on their way, a group of armed men stop them and arrest him. He is brought to a village. The following day, there is an investigation after which he is thrown into a dungeon.

    On July 21, he is brought to the mandarin of Lan-p’ing-hien where is imprisoned in a dungeon. Late in the evening of July 24, after being investigated, he is sentenced to death. Five men take him outside the town to the bank of the Lan-ho river. Most probably they strangle him with a cord and throw him into a deep pit. While throwing soil on him, he tries to stand up. One of the men hits him with his shovel on the forehead. The pit is filled with soil…

    Six days later, the mandarin orders the exhumation of the body, and has it thrown into the river. Some Christians of P’ien-k’iao-tze discover it and try to give it a decent resting place. His face is still very recognizable. The whole-body bears torture marks. The pagan mayor of the village does not allow that the Christians take the body and informs the mandarin who has the body thrown into the river once more. This time the body is lost forever although the Christians still tried to find it.

    The missionary life of our confrere Jozef Segers was very short. Our loving Lord did not wait long to grant him a martyr’s crown. May his life and martyrdom inspire us to be generous missionaries by showing Jesus’ loving face to our brothers and sisters. 

    André De Bleeker, cicm
    General Archivist


     

     

    [1] Regarding the false rumors, in his letter of September 19, 1900, addressed to the Superior General, Adolf Van Hecke, Louis Van Dyck, Provincial Superior of Eastern Mongolia, mentions that the mandarin of Lan-p’ing-hien has told the people that the missionaries killed small children and used their eyes to make medicines. This mandarin also claimed that three hundred European soldiers, armed with canons, were hiding in the residence of Laohugou. This letter is found in Missions en Chine et au Congo, no 143, Décembre 1900, p. 558-560.

    [2] The quoted text - the second paragraph - is found in Daniel Verhelst, “Further Developments in China,” in Daniel Verhelst and Nestor Pycke, eds. C.I.C.M. Missionaries, Past and Present 1862-1987. History of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut/Missionhurst). Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1995, p. 97-98.

    The information about his arrest and martyrdom is found in the letter of Fr Louis Van Dyck. See above, note 1. Van Dyck got the information from Philippus Nai, a Christian of Laohugou, who had heard it from an eyewitness who was an employee of the court of justice in Lan-p’ing-hien.


    Désiré Abbeloos - Jozef  Dobbe - André  Zijlmans

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    Désiré Abbeloos (1871-1900)
    Jozef  Dobbe (1864-1900)
    André  Zijlmans (1873-1900)

    CICM Martyrs

     Désiré Abbeloos, Jozef Dobbe, and André Zijlmans, together with many Christians, were martyred on August 22, 1900, in Tiegedangou, Central Mongolia, China.

    Desire Abbeloos

    Désiré Abbeloos

    J0zef Dobbe

    Jozef Dobbe

    Andre Zijlmans

    André Zijlmans

     

    André Zijlmans was born on December 27, 1873, in Waalwijk, the Netherlands. He was the third son of a grain merchant Adrianus Cornelius Zijlmans (1836-1906) and Adriana Maria van der Heijden (1842-1899. Maybe the fact that a distant relative, Joachim Zijlmans (1841-1901), had become a Scheutist attracted André to enter the Congregation. On September 8, 1893, André pronounced his first vows. He was ordained a priest on July 25, 1898. Less than two months later, on September 22, he took the train to travel to Marseille. A steamer brought him to Shanghai. Via Tianjin, he traveled to Beijing and Xiwanzi, where he arrived on October 31.

    Jozef Dobbe was born in ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, on May 19, 1864. He was a seminarian at the Beekvliet seminary in Sint-Michielsgestel (South of 's-Hertogenbosch) when he entered the Congregation. He professed his first vows on March 25, 1889. Three months later, on June 29, he was ordained a priest. On September 22, he left for China.

    Désiré Abbeloos was born in Opwijk, Belgium, on July 20, 1871. After finishing his humanities at the Minor Seminary of Hoogstraten, he entered the Congregation. In 1891 he pronounced his first vows. On July 19, 1896, he was ordained a priest by Mgrs. Roelens, Apostolic Vicar of Upper Congo, in the chapel of Scheut. He was eager to leave for China. However, his Superiors had other plans. He was tasked to teach philosophy to his younger confreres. In 1898 he received the joyful news that he could depart for China. On September 22, he took the train for Marseille, where he boarded a steamer. He arrived in Shanghai on October 30. From there, he traveled to Xiwanzi.

    In July 1900, Abbeloos and Zijlmans had to leave their mission and seek refuge in the residence of Dobbe in Tiegedangou. Initially, the Boxers did not bother the three missionaries. In August, the three confreres welcomed protestant missionaries – three men, three women, and seven children – who had fled their missions and were trying to reach Europe via Siberia.

    On August 22, 1,500 soldiers, divided into three groups, attacked the mission of Tiegedangou from three sides. All the Christians, about 400, the Protestant missionaries, and the three confreres gathered in the church to prepare themselves for martyrdom. The soldiers put fire to the church, and all died in the inferno or were shot dead, except an old widow. She was able to escape because a soldier protected her and let her go.

    ************

    Tiegedangou is one of the oldest missions of our Congregation in China. Before our Congregation was founded, there were already Christians living there. In 1876, Jaak Bax sent the first confrere Fr. Theodoor Ottens (1844-1929) there.

    The destroyed church of Tiegedangou

    The destroyed church of Tiegedangou

     

    André De Bleeker, cicm
    General Archivist


    Petrus Chang Wen Chao

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    Petrus Chang Wen Chao (1894-1948). A CICM Martyr

    Chang Wen Chao PetrusOn July 3, 1894, Petrus was born in Xiamiao’ergou, a little village in East Mongolia, China. It was also there that the first CICM, Aloïs Van Segvelt, died.

    He is assigned in several places, among them Laohugou, the village where our Founder has died, until he is asked to teach classical Chinese in the regional seminary of Datong.

    Petrus receives a solid training. Although not the most outstand- ing student, he has a particular talent for Chinese. In 1922 he starts studying theology at the newly established regional major seminary of Datong. On May 16, 1926, he is ordained priest. He is assigned as assistant priest in a village of East Mongolia.

    Dreaming of entering a religious congregation, he expresses his desire to join CICM. In December 1927, he, together with Joseph Ch’ang Shou Yi, is admitted to the novitiate in Tianjin. The following year they pronounce their vows. When the Japanese put all the CICM confreres, except Florent Spiltoir (1867-1944), in internment camps in 1943, the superiors send Petrus to Shanghai to take care of the procuration office. At the end of 1945, he is allowed to return to his region of origin.

    Upon his return to East Mongolia, he meets only unrest and misery. There is the civil war followed by the establishment of the com- munist government.

    In January 1947, he has to take care of the episcopal residence in Lingyuan. In June, the city is taken by the red army. On November 29, our confrere is interrogated, after which he is whipped and sus- pended by the arms. The police officer praises him, saying: “This priest is brave, and he knows how to talk!” The police does not send him back to the episcopal resi- dence but keeps him in the police station.[1]

    On December 3, feast of St Fran- cis Xavier, the police brings all the mission personnel from the episcopal residence to the village theater. Our confrere is brought before the court of the people. He is encouraged to confess all his crimes. His major crimes are be- ing the chief of a wealthy church and the fact that he collaborates with the enemy. Instead of refut- ing the allegations directly, he ex- plains how he instructs the peo- ple to follow the right way and do good. He is not allowed to con- tinue speaking and is severely whipped. He collapses, is made to stand, and is whipped again. He is questioned once more and

    severely whipped. At the end of the day, he is brought back to the police station. Some days later, he, together with five confreres and another Chinese priest, is led to Meiliingtze, a village in the neighborhood, where they are imprisoned.

    Our confrere is interrogated again during the night of January 7, 1948. Once more, he is tor- tured. Both his legs are crushed. He is brought back to the prison cell. Around noontime of Janu- ary 8, he leaves this world to fall in the open arms of his loving Lord... ■


    André De Bleeker, cicm
    General Archivist


    [1] See “Le Père P. Tchang,” in Missions de Scheut, no. 4, Avril 1948, p. 93-94. For what follows, see “Le Père P. Tchang,” in Misssions de Scheut, no. 5, Mai 1948, p. 110-112. The second part of the article ends with a prayer: “Puissent de nombreux jeunes poursuivre l’idéal du Père Tchang et parfaire son œuvre grandiose: donner la Chine au Christ par un clergé digne et saint.”


    Ferdinand Hamer

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    Bishop Ferdinand Hamer (1840-1900). A CICM Martyr

    Chang Wen Chao Petrus

    During the summer of 1864, when Father Théophile Verbist visited some seminaries in the Netherlands to win candidates for the mission work in China, Ferdinand Hamer was the first to present himself. This was barely a couple of weeks before his ordination to the priesthood.

    On August 21, 1840, Ferdinand Hamer is born in Nijmegen, where his parents have a grocery store. He is the seventh of nine children. One brother enters the Franciscan order, and another becomes a Jesuit. He joins the little community in Scheut in 1864. He quickly feels at home there. In a letter written in early January 1865, he characterizes his five companions as broad-minded guys with open hearts.

    On August 15, 1865, he professes his first vows, and ten days later he begins his journey to China with the first group of Scheutists. His companions are Théophile Verbist, Aloïs Van Segvelt, Frans Vranckx, and Paul Splingaerd, a lay person. On December 5, 1865, they arrive in Xiwanzi, the central mission station of Inner Mongolia, and also the very first mission station of the Congregation.


    To East Mongolia

    He can scarcely stammer a few words in the Chinese language when he is assigned in the territory of the “Black Waters” in East Mongolia. This makes him feel helpless in the midst of all the work. Initially, he has to leave most of it to a newly ordained Chinese priest. In order to discuss the work and other matters with the young Chinese priest, he has to use the Latin language. Yet, he does not lose courage. At the end of 1897, he says that those years in East Mongolia, despite poverty, famine, bandits, and other miseries, were the most beautiful of his life


    Apostolic Vicar of Gansu

    In 1878, Scheut is entrusted with the Gansu vicariate, a territory deep in China that also includes Chinese Turkestan and borders Russia in the West. Father Hamer appears to be the right man to direct the unusually difficult task of organizing the evangelization in this area. Pope Leo XIII sends him his appointment in full trust. On October 27, 1878, the young Vicar Apostolic receives the episcopal consecration at Xiwanzi from the hands of Msgr Jaak Bax. A month later he is on his way to his vicariate, hundreds of kilometers away.

    Seven years later the number of mission stations has grown to 17. There is a minor and a major seminary, a number of orphanages, and medical consultation bureaus.

    In a letter to his family, dated May 22, 1882, he describes some of his experiences. What follows is the translation of the original text: “I am as pleased with the missionary life as I was in the first days. I believe that, should I have to leave it even for a short time, it would mean a greater sacrifice for me than when I left Europe and everything that was dear to me. I love the Chinese as my children, and I now have eight good and virtuous priests with me, who all work diligently and live together in love and unity as true brothers. About the mission of Kansu: since this was a totally new mission, I found nothing in order. There was, so to speak, nothing. Everything had to be started from the beginning. We found here only 1,300 Christians, scattered here and there, completely neglected, poorly instructed, and who scarcely deserved the name of Christian.”[1]

    For his confreres Msgr Hamer is a true father. “The Bishop,” one of them writes, “always received us with open arms. It was a true joy for him when he could share with his priests what he received from Europe. He inspired them to diligence through his friendly letters. In particular, he knew how to comfort and encourage whenever anyone was faced with the resistance of the mandarins, or when he saw that the work remained without result.”[2]


    Apostolic Vicar of Southwest Mongolia

    First East Mongolia, then Central Mongolia, next Gansu and finally Southwest Mongolia (Ortos). It should be kept in mind that in the 1880s the Ortos mission is known as one of the most difficult in the whole territory. “The distances between the various districts are great,” one of the confreres writes, “and the journeys very difficult…the roads pass through deserts or sparsely populated areas. It is extremely difficult to find food provisions, and one has often to sleep out in the open with temperatures not seldom more than thirty centigrade below zero.”


    Martyrdom

    In 1899 a secret sect is spreading in north China. Its members call themselves “the united fists for peace and justice,” which Europeans incorrectly shorten to “boxers.” This sect fosters a merciless hatred to all foreigners and their followers. They also want to uproot and wipe out Christianity. It is especially in the months of July and August of 1900 that they inflict an extremely painful trial on the missions. We can only admire the heroic attitude of Bishop Hamer. While he orders his missionaries to care for their safety, he himself stays with the Christians at the main mission. With genuine magnanimity he is ready to give his life for them. The boxers take him prisoner. For four days he undergoes interrogation after interrogation, and all kinds of tortures. On July 24, he is put on a cart and brought to the vicinity of T'uo-ch'eng City (Duosheng) where he is atrociously put to death. Three poles are fixed in the ground, tied together at the top and furnished with an iron hook. Next to this a pot of oil. The martyr is taken from the cart, stripped of his clothes, wrapped with cotton cloth which is then soaked with oil. Then the victim is tied, lifted by the feet, and hooked at the top of the poles, head down. Right away the executioner puts the cotton afire. There is a dreadful scream, and then silence. The sacrifice is accomplished, a sacrifice of love.

    We do not know whether or when Bishop Ferdinand Hamer will be beatified. All kinds of obstacles, especially political ones, have so far made official beatification impossible. Anyone who is familiar with his missionary life and heroic death does not hesitate to declare that he is indeed a great saint. After all, a saint is someone who lives solely for the Lord and his brothers and sisters.

     

    André De Bleeker, cicm

    General Archivist


    [1] Albert Raskin. CICM Profiles. Rome, 1982, 56.

    [2] Ibid., 56-57.


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