“The Proto-Martyrs of Peru” – A new image in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Peter (Chimbote, Peru) depicting the first declared martyrs of the Church in Peru: Blessed Miguel (Michał ) Tomaszek, OFM Conv., Blessed Zbigniew Strzałkowski, OFM Conv. and Rev. Alejandro Dordi (Italian Missionary). The men were Beatified together in the Manuel Rivera Sanchez Centenary Stadium (Chimbote, Peru), on December 5, 2015, by His Eminence, Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B.. Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. All three were slain by the Marxist guerrilla organization, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path); Michał and Zbigniew – August 9, 1991; Alejandro on August 25, 1991. The theme of the Beatification was “Testigos de la Esperanza” (Witnesses of Hope). A new hymn by that title was commissioned for the ceremonies and premiered at the Vigil, sung by its author Enrique Enrique Mesías. (sheet music)
Three Friars represented Our Lady of the Angels Province at the Beatification, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Fr. José Guadalupe Matus Castillo, OFM Conv. and Fr. Jacek Leszczynski, OFM Conv. Fr. Jarosław (Jarek) Wysoczański, OFM Conv., Guardian of the Pariacoto Friars at the time of the martyrdom. Friar Jarek was not in Peru, but on a home visit to Poland in August 1991 when the martyrdom occurred. Fr. Carlos Gomez, OFM Conv. of Peru was on hand for the Beatification. He was one of three postulants in Pariacoto on the night of the martyrdom of Friars Michał and Zbigniew (August 9, 1991). Those postulants had been placed under obedience by Fr. Michał to remain praying in the friary chapel when the terrorists arrived. Friar Carlos was the first Peruvian native vocation to profess vows and be ordained. Relics of the bones of each martyr (held here by Fr. James who is pictured with Friar Carlos and Friar Jarek) were later carried to the altar by Friar Carlos and Friar Jarek during the ceremony of Beatification. The Mass of Beatification, presided by His Eminence, Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B. and 60 concelebratrants, 500 priests, and 25,000 people took place in the Manuel Rivera Sanchez Centenary Stadium (Chimbote, Peru), on Saturday December 5, 2015. (Read More from Fr. Jarosław Wysoczański)
On Sunday, December 6, 2015, the day after the Beatification, the pilgrims headed three hours north to Pariacoto, the town where the friar-martyrs ministered, died, and are buried, to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving. Pilgrims from our missions in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as large numbers from Poland, journeyed thousands of kilometers to attend the ceremonies in Chimbote and Pariacoto (Peru). The Minister Provincial of Kraków, the Very Reverend Fr. Jarosław (Jarek) Zachariasz, OFM Conv., the Minister General of our Order, the Most Reverend Fr. Marco Tasca, OFM Conv. and our Minister Provincial – Fr. James as well as all of the the concelebrating bishops and priests, other friars and the families of Michał and Zbigniew walked through the “Gate of Mercy” along the path taken by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) van with its friar-prisoners, following the Mass of Thanksgiving. A prayer service was held at the Gate.
A small memorial now marks the exact site where the killing of Michał and Zbigniew took place and there are now 14 Stations of the Cross along the route traveled by the van which carried them to their place of death.
Even before the deaths of Friars Michał and Zbigniew, our Province of St. Anthony of Padua was preparing to send one of its own American friars as a new member of the Polish Mission in the Peru. That friar, Fr. Vincent Imhof, OFM Conv. had been ordained at St. Casimir’s in Baltimore (MD), in 1990. Shortly after the deaths of Friars Michał and Zbigniew, the Minister Provincial of St. Anthony Province at the time, the Very Reverend Fr. Mark Curesky, OFM Conv., allowed Friar Vincent to go on mission to Peru, joining up with Friar Jarek and thus assuring that the Order’s Peruvian mission would be sustained without interruption. This courageous decision on behalf of Friar Mark and Friar Vincent was reached after considerable prayer and anguish. When Friar Vincent arrived, the “Sendero Luminoso” was still spreading its reign of terror. Undaunted, the friars persevered indefatigably, and the Order’s implantation continues to reap a holy harvest, even now. As Tertullian wrote in the second century: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Eventually Friar Vincent transfiliated into the Krakow jurisdiction. He remains an active Missionary there, today. Before returning home to the United States, Fr. James presented to Fr. Jacek Lisowski, OFM Covnv. (Provincial Delegate for Peru) and Fr. Jarek Zachariasz, OFM Conv. (Minister Provincial of Krakow) two chalices, originally from our former ministry in Staten Island, as a gift from Our Lady of the Angels Province to the Pariacoto Mission. The chalices were re-plated in silver and gold, and inscribed with the names of the two new Blessed.For more on the events surrounding the Beatification, visit “Mártires de la Diócesis de Chimbote” on Facebook.