Doing his best and trust Providence for the rest After having been expelled from their house by the Communists, the 15 Brothers of Chefoo had to spend the night in an empty house. They got their meals from the hospital, from a Catholic family or from a doctor. Ten days later they all escaped to Tsingtao, still occupied by the Nationalist army. Brother Joche Albert, and the other Brothers got $1,000 from me. He left on the eve of our departure, because he had agreed to leave the town with a student, while the other Brothers also left in different groups with real or forged passports. Four days later, all the Brothers succeeded in leaving the Communist zone and reached Tsingtao where they lived in our school. One day, the student who was accompanying Brother Joche Albert came and told us that the Brother had been arrested by soldiers of the Nationalist army somewhere in the country. Asked for more details, the student said that Brother Joche Albert had worn a Communist soldier’s uniform all the time to travel more easily in Communist occupied territory. He had also a Communist passport, and food tickets, Communist badges and currency. But in a kind of no man’s land there were soldiers and spies from both sides. There he met a Communist soldier (who was a Nationalist soldier disguised as a Communist soldier) who questioned him. Brother Joche Albert, thinking that he was dealing with a Communist soldier, produced his passport and other documents. He was then told by the disguised soldier that he was a prisoner. He spent three days in prison. As soon as we got the news, we in Tsingtao did our best to get the release of Brother Joche Albert. Three days later he arrived in Tsingtao giving us an account of his journey and arrest.
Date, 6th April, 1964.
Je soussigné, Michel Obomendy, archevêque de Malacca-Singapore, déclare et certifie que le présent document a été rédigé et signé par le Rev. Frère Philippe, le Supérieur Provincial des Frères Maristes de Malaysia.
+ Michel Obomendy
Archevêque de Malacca-Singapore.
(I, Michel Obomendy, archbishop of Malacca-Singapore, declare and certify that the present document was written and signed by Reverend Brother Philip, the Provincial Superior of the Marist Brothers of Malaysia.)
+ Michel Obomendy
Archbishop of Malacca-Singapore
Parroquia de la Purisima Conception
Valencia de Venezuela
Avenida de Bolivar 122-4 – tel 4595
Reverend Brother Alessandro di Pietro
My dear Brother,
I have received the letter in which you ask me to tell you all I know about Brother Ly Albert, who was martyred by the Communists. I spent some time looking over my papers and I finally found those that have some bearing on what you asked me. I shall write them here as I find them in my notes, and as I remember.
Brother Ly Albert was the Director of the Catholic School, Ming Yang, a middle school. It was, on the whole, the best school in the city. Because of this, it was very much envied. In public competition against other schools, in music, football, basketball etc. this Marist school always won first place. The director, Ly Albert was also the best educated among the teachers. No one could compare with him. The good name of the school and of the Director brought about much good will from the old administration… Notwithstanding this, there were, some who were conspiring against the school, although it was hardly noticeble. To make matters worse, Director Ly (I believe without knowing it) hired one of the principals conspirators as a teacher in the school. All the people in the school liked the Director for the good man that he was.
One day, the Bishop advised Director Ly not to get involved in anything political and to break all relations with the members of the old administration; for, although they were useful to the school and were helping it at the moment, they might prove prejudicial in the future.
One day, Brother Ly said that something serious was in the wind, and that days of danger were coming; and that the school was the only one in the city where some security existed. He told us this in private. We kept this to ourselves. The conspiracy was being carried out. It broke out one day, and it ended with the destruction of the good, and then began the reign of terror.
The events that followed proved that the Brother had been right. It started on January 6, 1951. Since the beginning of the Revolution, half of the school had been occupied by a detail of soldiers. As the Redemptorists lived about 100 meters from the episcopal palace in 1951, I left the house at 9.00 a.m. to go and give the bishop my best wishes. I met him on the street in front of the episcopal palace. Noting that he seemed sad, I asked him: “What’s the matter, Monsignor?” He said it was because the Communists had arrested Brother Ly a short time before, without revealing why. Already several hours had gone by, and he had heard nothing about him. For what he knew, the authorities most probably had imprisoned him. Brother Ly had given the Communists at least a few good reasons for suspecting him. He frequently visited people who were known not to be Communists, and who favored the Nationalist cause. Two teachers from the school had previously been imprisoned. One of these teachers had been sleeping at school. In light of school needs, Brother had one day offered a post in the school to a Protestant because he had been teacher. The Protestant did not accept. Finally, one day, this Protestant, I don’t know why, asked Brother to allow him to live in the school. Brother refused the request. Thus began all those misfortunes and accusations against Brother Ly. Before the Governor of Sichang and also before the one of Yagang, this Protestant teacher accused him of not observing the school laws, of doing everything without consulting the Council and teachers, of having the imperialist spirit in his work, and of not seeing the progress of the students in the new Communist education. (And this is the truth. I could see it. Brother did not introduce the new regulations unless he found no way of avoiding them.) All of this, together with the relations he kept with the Nationalists, was more than enough reason to imprison him, according to the Communists. In prison they twice tortured him attempting to get him to accuse himself and at the same time to give the names of those who were the leaders of the revolution. After binding his hands and feet for several days, they then returned and gave him paper and pen so that he might accuse either himself or others. However they did not succeed in getting a single word that would compromise anyone. Thus tied day and night, he was as if dead; they had to give him food and to attend health care necessities, touching certain parts of the body, something quite embarrassing for him.
The Communists said that he was very stubborn, and he did not understand the new ideas. This was because Brother was a true Religious and could not tolerate beliefs contrary to Catholic doctrines and morals. Moreover, he had other qualities. He was very clever and in discussions that he had in prison with the Communists, not only could they not convert him, but he silenced them, for they could not prove him wrong. Before going to prison, he had already manifested this great quality in the conferences which were held for all the teachers from all the schools. At these conferences, whenever any point did not seem to be good or seemed to be dubious, he always suggested remedies or fought openly against whatever seemed undesirable.
It happened one day, that the Chief of the Bureau of Education brought together all the teachers for instruction. He preached on Communist spirit and doctrines: on poverty, on sacrifice, on charity towards toward the neighbor by helping and instructing him, etc. The official spoke convincingly. Afterwards, he invited the teachers to say what they thought or to add to what they had just heard. At first no one volunteered, then Brother Ly accepted the challenge and began to speak. He spoke for almost half an hour, saying that everything the official had just said had been carried on by the Catholic Church since its foundation. And to prove this he cited actual examples. He said: The Catholic hospital: Where is charity better practiced? As to the poor: missionaries help the poor; they solicit alms from Europe for the poor, and at the same time there is the Catholic Hospital. What more do they want, in so far as the necessities of life are concerned? What I am saying is evident to everyone. It can be proved by simple observation.” After this defense of the Catholic Church, Brother sat down. The critics of the session were all convinced that Brother had spoken better than the Chief of the Bureau of Education himself.
In February of 1951, the Communists took over the Catholic school and the seminary. The reason given was that the school was up kept by imperial European money, and they did not want imperialist money. But the principal reason was not given, and it was that the Director, Brother Ly, a Marist, had used the school as a medium of the anti-revolutionary movement. Moreover the Protestant had informed the Governor of Yang that the best youth of the city were being educated in that school and thus were avoiding Communist influence. The Chinese New Year arrived. On this days the Communists allowed the families that had prisoners in jail to bring them whatever they wished: clothes, food, medicines, etc. The Franciscan Religious Sisters from the hospital prepared many beautiful things for Brother Ly. They were brought by Father Carriquiry and by a Marist Brother, Brother Lieou Josaphat. They were able to see Brother Ly and to talk with him in the presence of the head of the prison. Father took advantage of this occasion to bring him Holy Communion, concealed among the other things which they brought him. At the end of the conversation, the chief of the prison said: “Now you see that he is well treated. He is very quiet. For the first few days he suffered a great deal. There is no special reason. He is not kept for anything serious. He is only a little stubborn; he does not want to learn the new ideas.” When the two left the prison, they brought back this good news; we were all consoled and happy. We hoped to see the prisoner among us very soon. Another day, as he was sick and was allowed to receive medicine, the sacred Host was brought to him. We had real hopes for his return. We had these realistic expectations for a month, more or less. Finally one day, we received the tragic news: Brother, they told us, had been condemned to death before the firing squad. What had happened? It would take me a long time to enumerate the means used by the Communists to dispatch, those whom they do not like to the next world. Moreover, as to the charges brought against him, I do not know if he was allowed to refute them. This same Brother knew nothing about these accusations, neither was he allowed to defend himself. They wanted him to accuse others, but he refused to do so.
On April 21, they took him out of the prison to face the firing squad. In the morning of that day, a Christian secretly came to the house to tell us. (I say secretly because it was forbidden by the Communists for anyone to come to talk to us). When he came along the sorrowful road, early in the morning, a Chinese priest was hidden among the crowds in the street looking at the 23 prisoners, among whom was Brother, all were going before the firing squad. As Brother was passing in front, the priest gave him absolution. The Europeans were not allowed to be present. The place of execution was a square in the suburbs, next to the city walls. From where we were, we heard the noise of the ceremony. The condemned were all tied with their hands behind their backs, and they were huddled together so that their arms were one against the other. Thus, no one could separate himself from his companion. In the meantime while the Communists were directing the execution in the square, and speaking loudly against the condemned and expounding Communist doctrine, Brother Ly was force to his knees. His posture was such that, to those who saw him he seemed to be weeping. At 2:30 that day, while we were eating, with a very great loss of appetite, we heard the crack of the rifles. The 23 victims all fell at the same time, a bullet through the head, then they were once more shot through the head as a last precaution. As for us, fork still in hand, we bowed our heads and began to weep.
A few Christians had already prepared a coffin, and without solemnity, no priest being able to go and bless the body, they carried it to the Catholic cemetery.
On the very day he was shot, there appeared in the Chinese newspaper a whole page article, recounting the crimes that had been committed or thought to have been committed by Brother Ly. At a prison meeting, before his death, some having heard these accusations, were irritated to such an extent that they said: “To kill him is to good for him. Before doing so they should torture him for he is a great criminal. May the judges give him to us, that we may decapitate him little by little, that we may remove the scalp from his head which is so wicked, that we may extract the fingernails and bones from his hands…” Thanks be to God, the judge did not listen to these savages.
Whatever may have been the imprudence of Brother as we have said, all was more than made up for by his exemplary conduct while in prison. One day a pagan who had spent some time in the same prison with Brother, came to the hospital and said: Brother in prison is very charitable. He always shares his food with his companions in his cell, and he helps them by his counsel.
One day we received a small paper in which he asked for a Chinese blanket for another prisoner who had none. The pagan who told us about the charity of Brother Ly offered his services to the Sisters of the hospital. He felt the calling of Christ. In a short while, the Communists again imprisoned him.
Thus ends all I know of the life of the one who was martyred by the Communists. Please excuse the corrections and errors in these pages, written in “prisa” but with affection.