Blessed Martyrs of Madrid
Seven Visitation nuns joyfull faced martyrdom for Catholic faith
The following seven blesseds were born in Spain: Bl. Maria Gabriela de Hinolosa Naveros, on 24 July 1872 in Alhama, Granada; Bl. Josefa Maria Darrera Izaguirre, on 23 May 1881 in El Ferrol, La Coruna; Bl. Teresa Maria Cavestany y Anduaga, on July 30 1888 in Puerto Real, Cadiz; Bl. Maria Angela Olaizola Garagarza, on 12 November 1893 in Azpeitia, Guipuzcoa; Bl. Maria Engracla Lecuona Ararnburu, 2 July 1897 in Oyarzun, Guipuzcoa; Bl. Maria Ines Zudaire Galdeano, on 28 January 1900 in Echavarri, Navarre; and Bl. Maria Cecilia Cendoya Araquistain, on 10 January 1910 in Azpeitia, Guipuzcoa.
The six religious came from devout Christian families and were all members of the Madrid house of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in France in 1610 by St.Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal.
In early 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, religious persecution was intensified. That same year the community realized the danger of remaining in Madrid and moved to Oronoz, leaving a group of six nuns in the charge of Sr. Maria Gabriela do Hinojosa. By July they were confined to their apartment, where they enjoyed relative peace. However, an antireligious neighbour reported them to the authorities; their freedom was curtailed, their belongings confiscated and arrests followed. Nevertheless, they refused to seek refuge in the consulates to save their lives. Their fervour was stronger than the threat of death, and when their apartment was searched on 17 November, they expressed their desire to die for the faith, exclaiming: "What a joy, martyrdom is not far off!". They spent the night in prayer. The following evening, a patrol of the Iberian Anarchist Federation broke into the apartment and ordered all the sisters to leave. In striking contrast to the noisy mob was the majestic serenity of the nuns. They were taken by van to a vacant area. As they held each other's hand, a barrage of gunfire shattered their bodies, except for Sr Maria Cecilia, who had unwittingly started to run when she felt the sister next to her fall. Moments afterwards she surrendered, declaring herself a nun, and was shot five days later at the cemetery wall in Vallecas on the out skirts of Madrid.