Thursday, July 17, 2014


Father Jesus Baza Dueñas


Practically all of us on Guam have heard of Father Jesus Baza Dueñas, killed by the Japanese. But fewer people know of the seven other Catholic clergy and religious also killed by the Japanese in other parts of the Marianas and Micronesia.  Here they are :


Fr. Jesus Baza Dueñas - Chamorro - Tai, July 12, 1944

Dueñas was killed by the Japanese, after several days of torture and beatings, on suspicion of helping the American Navy radio man George Tweed.


Br. Miguel Timoner, Jesuit - Spanish - Luta, November, 1944

Brother Timoner was an assistant to Father Juan Pons, the Jesuit priest of Luta.  Pons and Timoner were the only two Spaniards on Luta, and the only two Catholic missionaries.  Pons was afflicted with a very infected sore on his leg, which ultimately contributed to his death.  Timoner was killed on suspicion of being an American spy.


On September 18, 1944, the Japanese killed six Jesuits in a jungle area on a hill in Ngatpang, Palau. Three of them had been stationed in Yap and the other three in Palau.  They were executed because the Japanese feared they would help the Americans if the U.S. should ever invade Palau and Yap.

The Three Missionaries on Yap

Fr. Bernardo de la Espriella (Colombian)

Fr. Bernardo was a long-time missionary in Yap, which was perhaps the most difficult Catholic mission in Micronesia, as the Yapese were very reluctant to become Christians.  But Espriella was tireless in making attempts, going from village to village, and even island to island.  By the 1930s, times had changed and the missionaries found themselves in demand as more Yapese became interested in baptism.  One of Yap's most renowned sorcerers came to Espriella to embrace Catholicism, giving to the priest the tools of his trade.

Espriella was one of the first to penetrate the atolls of Ulithi in modern times. He used large posters showing the main doctrines of the faith, and let interpreters explain them in the local language. Then he would teach the people, from the elders to children, basic prayers already translated into their mother tongue. He would stay with the people till close to midnight explaining the faith.

Fr. Bernardo de la Espriella, SJ

A true missionary, Espriella was always on the move to another island.  In these remote, smaller atolls, he sometimes faced great opposition from chiefs and sorcerers. On some voyages, the seas were very rough and a typhoon once pushed his boat 400 miles off course.

Fr. Luis Blanco (Spanish)

Fr. Luis Blanco, SJ

Arriving sometime later, Fr. Blanco became partners with Espriella in the mission of Yap.  He, too, started to make sea voyages to the outer islands in Yap district, facing the same opposition and at other times indifference of many of the islanders. But, a few always found interest in Christinaity and Blanco formed them to know the basic teachings and to pray the rosary when priests were absent.

Just before the outbreak of World War II, the Jesuit missionaries in Yap could count 2000 Catholics among the 3000 people living in Yap.

Br. Francisco Hernandez (Spanish)

Br. Francisco Hernandez, SJ

Brother Francisco was also stationed in Yap.  Like many Jesuit missionary brothers, he did much of the hands-on jobs of building and maintaining the physical structures of the mission.

The Three Missionaries on Palau

These two priests worked not only in Palau, but even on very small islands like Tobi, where they experienced unbelievable success.  Of course, there were just as many hardships, especially when war got closer.

Fr. Elias Fernandez (Spanish)

Father Elias was a strong presence among Catholics in Palau. He enjoyed better health when imprisoned than his confrere Father Marino. It was he who asked Rudimch, a Catholic layman, to get fish and taro for Father Marino.

Father Elias is said to have been the priest who, in the 1930s, received the conversion of an entire island! This island is Tobi, many miles southwest of Palau.  The people of Tobi have their own language. The islanders believe that Father sits in heaven to this day, monitoring the islanders. For some reason, many internet sources say the famous priest of Tobi is Father Marino, but the Jesuit sources themselves say it was Father Elias.

Fr. Marino de la Hoz (Spanish)

There is a sad story about a Palauan lady who chanced coming upon the hut in Ngatpang where the Catholic missionaries were under house arrest by the Japanese in 1944. She saw Father Marino lying on the floor, completely weakened from malnutrition.

Br. Emilio Villar (Spanish)

As most of the brothers working in the missions, it was he who cared for the material needs of the priests and did a lot of manual labor for the mission. He was called "Elmano" by the Palauans; their pronunciation of the Spanish word "hermano," or "brother."

The Three Jesuit Martyrs of Palau