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From The Desk Of Fr Joseph McLafferty:Bishop Francis X Ford,M.M.[MARTYR IN CHINA]
St Patricks-Yorktown ^ | February 24, 2002 | Fr Joseph McLafferty

Posted on 06/19/2002 4:26:49 PM PDT by Lady In Blue

Pastor's Message

From the desk of Fr. Joseph McLafferty.....

The lead article in this month's Maryknoll magazine is about Bishop Francis Xavier Ford, M.M., a Maryknoll missionary who served in China for almost 40 years.  This past Thursday, February 21st, marked the 50th anniversary of his death in a Chinese prison.

Francis Xavier Ford was born in Brooklyn on January 11, 1892, the son of Austin and Elizabeth Rellihan Ford.  Ford attended St. Francis Preparatory School in Brooklyn and Cathedral College in Manhattan.  In 1912 he was the first student to apply to the seminary of the recently established Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (Maryknoll).  Ordained in 1918 he was among the first four priests assigned to Yeungkong, China.  The others were Thomas Frederick Price, who died suddenly in 1919, and James Edward Walsh and Bernard F. Meyer, who were as young as Ford.

In 1925 he was appointed superior of a newly created mission territory at Jiaying (Kaying) or Meixian (Meihsien) in northeastern Guangdon (Kwangtung) Province in south China.  The territory was about the size of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined.  Ten years later he was appointed bishop of this area.  His Episcopal motto was the word condolere, meaning "to feel with, to share with."

Central to his policy was person-to-person evangelization.  Bishop Ford would visit town and villages, inviting people to become Christians.  As he explained, "Hours spent in the chapel are not the only means of entertaining the Beloved Guest of the soul.  We can often please Him better when we are out in the highways and byways of China, offering to needy souls the hospitality of our Christian love."  Bishop Ford worked hard at establishing an indigenous Chinese Church.  His goal was a self-governing local church, unburdened by Western institutions, and financially self-reliant.  His plans envisioned not only well-trained local clergy and sisterhoods, but also well-educated laity able to give leadership and assume responsibility for building modern China.

Bishop Ford was one of the first Roman Catholic bishops to emphasize participation of women religious in the task of direct evangelization.  A small experiment begun with a few Maryknoll Sisters in 1934 became an important contribution to enhancing the role of women in mission and in the church.  Forsaking the regularity of mission centers, the Sisters traveled two by two for weeks or more visiting villages, often renting a room in which to stay, and accepting the invitations of Chinese women into their homes.  The Maryknoll sisters adopted this method and used it as the model for training Chinese women attracted to religious life.  This missionary method drew the official commendation of the papal office for missionary affairs in 1939.

Bishop Ford labored in China for 34 years, including during Japanese occupation and World War II.  After the war Ford hoped that China could be free of the violence from political factions and enjoy a new era of prosperity.  The postwar hopes were dashed as civil war broke out between Nationalist and Communist forces, ending with the Communist forces gaining the upper hand.  Persecution of the church began soon after and churches began closing in 1950.  Bishop Ford, as well as other missionaries, were seen as agents of American Imperialism .  In December 1950 the first Maryknoll priests and sisters were arrested and deported.  On December 23, the Chinese military closed the Kaying cathedral and announced there would be no Christmas services.  Ford was placed under house arrest.  Four months later he was pronounced guilty of alleged spying activities and incarcerated in the Canton provincial prison, where he died of exhaustion and illness on February 21, 1952.  Bishop Ford lived his motto of "feeling with, sharing with" the Chinese people, to the ultimate sacrifice of his life.

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: beaten; catholiclist; china; chinese; chinesecommunists; communists; martyr; tortured
Another view of Bishop Ford:

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A Martyr's Victory in a Spiritual Sense

Bishop Francis X. Ford was a well educated, enormously gentle man, that was kicked, beaten, insulted, and surrounded by hatred. All this because of one mans beliefs. He was born in Brooklyn in 1892. He was the founder of the Maryknoll Missionaries and was the first bishop of Kwantung, China. He was killed in the late 1950's in China, he was charged with anti-Communist, counterrevolutionary, and espionage activities, his real "crime" was for being a Christian and a foreigner. During his life Bishop Ford illustrated the cardinal virtue of fortitude, which is the ability to overcome fear in order to pursue good; "it is an active sake to overcome evil for the sake of gods kingdom" said Huggard. When he took office in China, the country was already feeling the effects of the massive Japanese advance across Asia. In a short time millions lost there lives and were driven from there homes. Bishop ford refused to leave the war-torn country, even after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war. During this time he distinguished himself by the way he cared for war refugees. Chinese paid a terrible price during this war with Japan, but even more costly was a civil war that followed. Bishop Ford exemplified the virtue of fortitude, by not leaving the war-torn country and staying to try to pursue good. During this time of war, many would wonder what was the reason for him to stay in China, and what was his why to live? In the Novel A Mans Search For Meaning, Nietzsche says "he who has a why to live can bear with almost any how". If Ford had left the country during the time of war, there would have probably been no hope for the war refugees that didn't have the option to stay or go. His why to live was not to save himself, but to save others. In the Novel Frankl describes the human person as a meaning maker, who has the last human freedom namely to choose one attitude in a given set of circumstances. In 1950, he moved from his Diocese in Kaying China, to a political prison in Canton 200, miles away. At every stop along the way he was put on public display and humiliated. His attitude during these stops was not to give and let the humiliation make get to him, but to use it as a stepping stone to fight harder, he did the inevitable he used the humiliation to make him better. In his life he examplified many of the things Frankl wrote about, but he also depicted many of the quotes in the hallway of Kellenberg Memorial High School. There is one quote that stood out to me more than any of the quotes on the wall it is……….


Don't follow where the path may lead ……go instead where there is no path and leave a trail". When Bishop was young he developed his own idealism. While a student in Cathedral college in New York he took an interest in the Christian Foreign Mission Society, this society was new and had few members. At the age of 20, he became the first seminarian of the Maryknoll Missionaries to go abroad. In time, many followed and the missionaries began a movement to Christianize foreign lands. Bishop Ford is consider the pioneer of this movement. Just like the quote said, he led the path…..and many followed. Bishop Ford died at the mercy of those who despised him, with-out any comfort or support. His death was martyrdom it's truest sense, despite the isolation and horror he held to his beliefs.

Works Cited

Funk & Wagnalls. Microsoft Encarta: Bishop Ford. New York: Houghton Mifflin Comp, 1994.

Welk, Donald. Asian Missionaries. Minnesota: Patch Publishing, 1981.

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1 posted on 06/19/2002 4:26:50 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Salvation; Siobhan; nickcarraway; BlackElk
2 posted on 06/19/2002 6:58:59 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue; Antoninus; sandyeggo; frogandtoad; saradippity; maryz; Jeff Chandler; ken5050; ...
Back when the Maryknolls served God.


3 posted on 06/19/2002 7:12:04 PM PDT by Siobhan
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To: Siobhan
Yes, it's wonderful to remember that. This would have been before they all got into "liberation theology" and went romping off to undermine Latin America.

But it's so sad when you think of it. What wonderful people they had, what brave and faithful people. I used to love reading the Maryknoll Mission magazine in doctors' offices when I was a child. And then - something happened to them all. Everything changed.
4 posted on 06/19/2002 7:38:25 PM PDT by livius
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To: Siobhan
I know! And I've been thinking about this nearly all day.How far,the Maryknolls have fallen.Sad and pathetic.
5 posted on 06/19/2002 9:15:40 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Siobhan
I'm reading the story of another wonderful Maryknoll priest,Father Capodanno.He was a chaplin during the Viet Nam war.He was killed trying to administer the sacraments to a soldier.I think I remember hearing on EWTN's shortwave radio a couple of months ago that when they were able to get to Father and examine him - he had 30 some bullets in him!! I would consider him a martyr too.
6 posted on 06/19/2002 9:18:24 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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