“The four Carmelite Missionaries passed through fear and courage. They share more than the fate of death… Their lives are joined together in vocation, service, and destination…The only witnesses to their passion were their executioners, the red traces of blood spilled by the shooting, and the presence of Jesus who gave them strength to face this moment.” -excerpts from 4 Carmelite Missionary Martyrs
She was born in Espluga de Francolí (Tarragona) as Francisca Pons Sarda on 18 July, 1880. She entered the novitiate in Gracia-Barcelona at 26 years old and made her profession as a Carmelite Missionary on 6 October, 1908.
Sr. Gabriela was described as being cheerful, free, very determined, fraternal and charitable. Before the events of antireligious tension, her family invited her to return home temporarily and take refuge to be safe but her response was always the same: that she was willing to give her life and die with the sisters … that if God had her destined to martyrdom, He would give her the necessary grace.
She was born in Berriatúa (Vizcaya) as Vicenta Achurra Gogenola on 4 April 1890. At the age of 20, she entered the novitiate of the Carmelite Missionaries in Gracia-Barcelona and made her religious profession on 16 October 1916.
Sr. Daniela’s companions remember her as being a dedicated person, simple, humble, cheerful, and with great spirit of sacrifice. Even though at times she may possess a strong temper, she was kind and hardworking. She was dedicated to mission in the field of health, spending a great part in service of the poor, the sick, and the blind. Her presentiments of martyrdom were remembered by her travelling companions, “If we became martyrs, what else must we ask for?”
Martyrdom of Two Sisters
Sr. Gabriela and Sr. Daniela found death at the hands of the “Red Committee”. They were still serving the sick until the last days of July. When it was already all too risky to return to the convent, they were offered a shelter adjoining the pharmacy where a niece of Sr. Gabriela was working. On 31 July 1936, a few steps away from the pharmacy, they were forcibly taken by a patrol of armed military men who halted them, hurled insults, and shoved them in a van. The two Sisters offered their lives in martyrdom, consummated by the last shot heard from that van. They were left lying on the roadside with several gunshots in the body and their blood staining the pavement.
Sr. Refugio, Maria Roqueta Serra, was born on 20 April 1878 in a small town on top of the hill in Gabarra (Lérida). She entered the novitiate of the Carmelite Missionaries of Gracia-Barcelona on 1 April 1897. She made her religious profession on 20 December 1898.
Characterized by transparency and simplicity, she was described as a woman of prayer. She used to say, “Every time I hear a shot, I pray to the Lord Jesus Christ because my heart cannot bear it.” Although she feared and cowed at the danger of martyrdom, she was “prepared to do God’s will.” She shared of the dream where she and Sr. Esperanza, their Superior were martyred together. And when the time came, she “had never found herself better prepared.”
Sr. Esperanza, Teresa Subira Sanjaume, was born in Ventolá (Gerona) on 27 February 1875. At the age of 20, she entered the novitiate of the Carmelite Missionaries of Gracia-Barcelona. She made her profession of vows as religious on 3 December 1896.
Her mission in her early years as a religious was caring for the sick, but later she was assigned to teach – facing the difficulties of teaching in those tough times of Spain in the 1930s. Those who lived with Sr. Esperanza attested, without a doubt, to her acts of unconditional dedication to work, her capacity to care for the sick, and the warmth of her gestures and words. Aware of the tense political climate at that time, she disposed herself to martyrdom. As they separated from the other Sisters on that fateful day in July, Sr. Esperanza bade goodbye repeating the words “Until heaven…”
The Two on the Road to Martyrdom
Towards the last week of that terrible July of 1936, the Sisters of the CM Community in the College of Vilarrodona were detained by armed military men. And on 31 July they were freed and permitted to abandon their seclusion to look for their own families.
On their way to Barcelona, Sr. Refugio and Sr. Esperanza were recognized as religious, detained, and turned over to authorities. In a matter of hours, the “Red Committee” herded them to the van of death. The two Sisters fell on the outskirts of the city, on the roadside in La Rabassada, riddles with bullets.