Martyrs of Laos


     During Easter time in 1953, while guerrillas stormed Sam Neua, Laos, many missionaries retreated to safety. Joseph Thao Tìen, a young Laotian priest ordained in 1949, had decided otherwise: ‘I am staying for my people. I am ready to lay down my life for my Laotian brothers and sisters.” He was marched to the prison camp in Talang; people knelt along the way, weeping. He told them: Do not be sad, III come back. I am going to study... Make sure that your village keeps improving.” One year later, on June 2, 1954, Joseph Tien was condemned and shot to death. One time too many he had refused to give up his priesthood and get married.

     In the meantime at the other end of the country, Fr. John Baptist Malo, a former missionary to China, had been detained with four companions. Soon after—in 1954—on his way to the prison camp, he would die from exhaustion and iII-treatment in a remote valley of Central Vietnam. In 1959 his confrere René Dubroux, a former prisoner of war in 1940, was betrayed by a dose associate- and eliminated as a mere hindrance in the guerrilla’s way. That year the HoIy See had given strict instructions: “All clergy and religious personnel—excepting obviously the elderly and sick—must remain in their place of duty unless and until they are expelled.’”

      All missionaries adhered joyfully to this command; far a number of them it meant a verdict of death. In 1960, a young Hmong catechist, Thoj Xyooj, went together with Fr. Mario Borzaga on an apostolic trip to some villages; they never carne back. In April and May 1961, Frs. Louis Leroy, Michael Coquelet and Vìncen tL’Hénoret were snatched from their stations in the Province of Xieng Khouang and savagely put to death. In Southern Laos Fr. Noël Tenaud and his faithful catechist Outhay were taken and killed. Fr. Marcel Denis was kept prisoner for a while but ended in the same way. One of their confreres wrote: “All of them were praiseworthy missionaries, ready for any kind of sacrifice. They lived in utter poverty and their dedication knew no limit. In those troubled times all of us, to some degree, aspired to martyrdom, wishing to surrender our lives totally to Christ. We did not fear exposing our Iives. All of us endeavoured to reach the poorest of the poor, to visit their villages, to take care of the sick, and especially to announce the Good News of Jesus...”

     Fr. John Wauthier was a tireless apostle of the refugees and stood up for Justice on their behalf; in 1967 another faction ambushed and eliminated him. He left behind countless people crying in their grief: We lost our father!” Fr. John had more than once looked death in its ugly face. He was ready. He laid down his life out of love far his own.

     In 1968 Fr. Lucien Galan, who had also started his missionary life in China, visited some isolated catechumens on the Boloven plateau. Because of the looming danger his pupil Khampheuane, aged 16, had decided toga along. On their way back enemies lay in wait; both were killed, and their blood mingled to irrigate the Laotian soil. One year later, it was the turn of Fr. Joseph Boissel, 60, a veteran of the Laos mission: he was ambushed on his way to an isolated Christian community and executed in the same manner.

     In January 1970 Luke Sy, a young catechist and father of three, was sent by his bishop to evangelize the Vang Vieng area. In March he was visiting catechumens in a distant village with a companion, Maisam Pho Inpeng, also the head of a family. Catechizing and tending to the many sick villagers took quite some time. They were expected on the way back. A volley of bullets put an end to their missionary thrust; they died for Christ and his People.

     These seventeen men, lay Christians and priests together, Laotians as well as foreigners, gave the supreme testimony for sake of the Gospel. The young Church of Laos recognizes them as her founding fathers. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

17 Martyrs of Laos

1. Fr. Joseph Tien, Laos 5/12/1918, + Muang Xoi (Sam Neua) 2/6/1954
educated in Vietnam, first Laotian martyr
2. Fr. Jean-Baptiste Malo, M.E.P., Nantes (F) 1899, + Ha Tinh (Vietnam) 1954
missionary to China and Laos
3. Fr. René Dubroux, M.E.P., Lorraine (F) 1914, + Palay (Champasak) 1959
4. Catechist Paul Thoj Xyooj, Laos 1941, + Muang Kasy (Luang Prabang)1960
first Hmong missionary and martyr
5. Fr. Mario Borzaga, O.M.l., Trent 1932, + Muang Kasy (Luang Prab.) 1960
6. Fr. Louis Leroy, O.M.I., Normandy 1923, + Ban Pha (Xieng Khouang) 1961
7. Fr. Michel Coquelet, O.M.I., France 1931, + Sop Xieng (Xieng Kh.) 1961
8. Catechist Joseph Outhay, Thailand 1933, + Savannakhet 1961
9. Fr. Noël Tenaud, M.E.R, Vendée (France)1904, + Savannakhet 1961
10. Fr. Vincent L’Hénoret, O.M.l., Bretagne 1921, + Ban Ban (Xieng Kh.)1961
11. Fr. Marcel Denis, M.E.P., Aten9on (France) 1919, + Khammouane 1961
12. Fr. Jean Wauthier, O.M.l., France 1926, + Ban Na (Xieng Khouang) 1967
13. Thomas Khampheuane, Laos 1952, + Paksong (Champasak) 1968
first Laven martyr
14. Fr. Lucien Galan, M.E.P., France 1921, + Paksong (Champasak) 1968
missionary to China and Laos
15. Fr. Joseph Boissel, O.M.l., France 1909, ÷ Hat l-Et (Bolikhamsay) 1969
16. Catechist Luc Sy, Laos 1938, + Den Din (Vientiane Province) 1970
first Kmhmu’ martyr together with Maisam
17. Lay leader Maisam Pho Inpeng, Laos 1934, + Den Din 1970

6 Oblate Martyrs of Laos

Servants of God: 

    Fr Jean Wauthier, OMI

     Fr Mario Borzaga, OMI 

      Fr Louis Leroy, OMI

       Fr Joseph Boissel, OMI

        Fr Michel Coquelet, OMI 

        Fr Vicent L'Hénoret, OMI