BANDITS KILL AN AMERICAN JESUIT PRIEST
Fr. IVIcAsey, Si., a missionary in Hong Kong, has sent to the CATHOLIC HERALD the following vivid account of the murder of Fr. Simons, S.I., by Chinese bandits last December. He also describes the difficulties of that mission field.
I have been tempted to write to you about many things—of war, famine and refugees; of the Street Sleepers of Hong Kong, and the refugee Universities, and the position of Communism. But all these things occupy the minds of pessimists and we are too familiar with them : the Church is something very positive—and so i I have conquered the temptation and shall write about Missioners and Methods and Miracles, at least this time 1 shall write about these three things.
A letter has just come to hand giving details of the death of Fr. Simons, an American Jesuit who was murdered by bandits on December 31. It is from Fr. Gonsalves who went to his village (Shuyang, Kiangsu) to spend New Year Day with his Superior. It reads: I arrived here on Tuesday, December 31, hoping to celebrate the New Year with my pastor in genuine fraternal cordiality. We looked forward too to the arrival of Fr. Gatz, S.J. (an American), but owing to the troubled conditions he did not come . . . which was very unfortunate for me.
After supper we entered the recreation room to continue our conversation.
At about 9.30 we heard heavy footsteps coming down the corridor. Suddenly the door of the room was thrown open. Two men came in each armed
with a Mauser (more probably a LugerThornton), and introduced themselves in an insolent manner.
We Want Money " Do you know whu we are? We are . . ," (Unfortunately, I could not catch the name, but Fr. Simons certainly understood).
" Are you armed?" He told us to anloose our soutanes and searched us.
" Have you any money? We want money." " Who are you?" said one of them to nett. "I'm the pastor of Mach'ang."
Have you any money?"
" No, I've no money. I just arrived this evening." I then showed him all I had anti he turned 10 Fr. Simons.
" How much money have you got?"
" I have between $300 and $500."
" You have more than that. Give us the
key to the ' Big Door ' . the key to the Big Door '."
" Which ' Big Door '?"
"The ' Big Door
" Do you mean the Big Door ' outside?" " No ! The ' Big Door ' inside here." " You mean the door of my room?" " Yes, the key . . . the key !"
" Here it is . . . my whole purpose in Coming to China is to help the Chinese, to help you."
" Be quick ... we don't want history."
At this point one of the bandits struck Fr. Simons an the head with the barrel of his gun, and thc Father tried to avoid the blow, unsuccessfully.
My Hand Trembled The four of us then entered Fr. Simons' room. Ile opened his safe. Ile then turned to the bandits. " Here's where I keep my money; you may have it."
Fr. Simons must have given them about $800 (Chinese) more or less (—£17).
" Have you any more?" asked the other bandit.
" No, I've no more." " Now, if you have be quick about It . . Remember."
" I told you I have no more, Do you wish to take any tong-pat?' (assorted articles), I have a trunk-full here."
" No, we don't want any of those. But what have you got here?" And he went across to Fr, Simons' wardrobe. They took out a pair of gloves and an overcoat. " Have you any watches?" they asked Fr. Simons.
" Yes, upstairs." " Let's go up." The four of us went upstairs. They took two watches of Fr, Simons', and one of them asked me to hold a flash-light while he made a parcel of money and watches. My hand trembled in spite of myself. I stole a side glance at Fr. Simons. He was quite pale. I am sure I was likewise.
He Nibbled the Cake
Next the bandits searched around in Fr. Simons' wardrobe and took out two French clerical top-coats and a pair of shoes. Then one of them took my glasses.
" I cannot see without them," I told him,
"That does not matter," was the answer to that, and then he took Fr. Simons' glasses also. They then ordered us downstairs again. I was first to enter the recreation room, and one of the bandits followed me. Fr. Simons with the other remained outside in the corridor. Here he ordered me to make a parcel of all the stolen goods, The bandit who was with me saw a cake on the table and began to nibble it. " Please help yourself," I told him.
" No," said he, " we want money" After a minute or two he went out and Fr. Simons came in to join me. The two bandits began to whisper outside in the corridor. 'When I saw this 1 said to myself, " I don't like' this: it is ominous. This is bad."
One of the bandits entered the room and said to Fr. Simons, " Come outside." Without waiting, he went out at once. Sensing danger, I made a motion forward to follow.
The bandit stopped me, " No, you remain inside."
Then the two bandits went out and
ordered Fr. Simons to follow them. Fr. Simons said, " You want me to accompany you? All right, here I am."
Murder A few seronds silence. Then. . . RANG ! BANG I RANG! I waited about ten seeOnds Or so and then went out into The corridor, I saw nothing at the door. Then I heard groaning and found Father Simons lying on the ground with one hand to his head.
"Father Simons?". . . " Y-c-s." " Fr. Simons. . . Fr. Simons?" But no answer. 1 gave him Absolution; but just as in Fr. Le Bayon's case at the death of Fr. Hermend, the formula of Absolution would not come.
Helped by one of the servants, I brought Father Simons into the house and seeing that he was still in agony, I gave him Extreme Unction and the Plenary Indulgence.
One bullet had entered under the right eye and pierced through behind the left eye. He was also twice wounded in the chest. Blood was flowing from his mouth, and the wound beneath his eye. When 1 had finished giving Extreme Unction, he was already dead.
During all this time he did not utter a word, the letter concludes.
Why He was Killed Father Simons, who was not yet 40, was born in San Jose, California in 1901. He motored the Society of Jesus in 1919 and was
sent to China as a scholastic in September, 1928. He was a very brilliant sinologue. The Californian Jesuits had only taken over this mission district last year.
Shindy before his death he redeemed 20 or 80 children who weie kidnapped by the bandits. He went in person to their den to get them and succeeded. The bandits lost face by this and may possibly have decided on his death as an adequate revenge. Local psychologists opine that he should have commissioned a middle man. Such a task could be undertaken by his catechist.
The mention of " catechist " recalls a recent article on this subject by Fr. N. C. Schneiders, C.P.
It is, of course, obvious that a missionary is naturally heavily handicapped—he remains. a "foreigner " no matter how long he has been in China; the language, despite years of effort is a difficulty. Ile can hardly hope to understand the Chinese mind even in a long life. He is, of course, accepted by Chinese Catholics—but on account of these natural handicaps he may not be listened to by the non-Catholic. There are not yet sufficient numbers of native Chinese priests to carry the Gospel to the peoples—the Gospel Must be preached ; therefore substitutes specially trained should be found, and these are " catechists."
Perhaps the most important note to emphasise is that the catechist in a very real manner multiplies the priest. With several good catechists one priest can do the work of several priests who have to carry on without such auxiliaries. Catechists prepare the people for the priest's coming, they teach, instruct (and what they say is what the priest has previously arranged for them).
Special Training To form such catechists requires, as Fr. Schneiders stresses, very special training, and careful choosing of suitable candidates, Most Chinese pay more attention to who is speaking rather than to what is being said. The words of an educated person arc listened to with respect by all classes, but the words of an uneducated person are passed with a shrug. A magistrate, an army officer, a postmaster, can scarcely be .expected to listen to the words of those inferior in rank or education. To overcome this, the idea
of the ideal catechist must be changed from that of a mere job to that of a profession.
The difficulty that immediately arises here, of course, is financial. Few Catholic missions can afford professionals as their catechists. Fr. Schneiders meets this, first, by retrenchment in some of the charitable works of the mission. " These works, after all, are secondary, and some of the money thus expended might well be used for the Church's primary work, the evangelisation of the people. The second solution is that the good people interested in the Chinese mission be urged to increase their donations or to make specific gifts for the purpose of educating and training worthwhile Catechists ... The establishment of busses for this purpose would be an excellent help."
Cheering in a Sad World
I said I would write lastly of a " miracle," What I had in mind was really a true story that is rather beautiful and very cheering in a sad world.
There is a Carmelite Convent at Stanley (on the island of Hong Kong), Near it
there is a little fishing village. The Lay Sisters instruct the children in the Faith— thus if they are in danger of death they can be baptised; and when they get old enough and ale allowed they may wish to be received.
One day an old woman got very sick. She went into a state of coma and was on the point of death. The Sisters were sent for. They came and baptised her. That was in the afternoon. Towards evening she showed signs of coming round. She became quite herself again—all signs of the malady vanished, and this was now going to be rather embarrassing, for she was now a Catholic and had never been instructed in the Faith ! She recovered quickly—and sent in haste for the Sisters, They came down to her, What would happen?
When she saw them she began to cry out her thanks. She wished to thank them so much for what they had done for her. She knew what they were doing when they baptised her. It made her very happy and she was in peace. She was soon going to die and only wished to thank the good Sisters for what they did for her. She was now going to God. The Sisters left her in very good spirits, Half-an-hour later she died.