Servant of God Joseph Perez

Saint of the Day for 6/7

“The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” said Tertullian in the third century. Joseph Perez carried on that tradition.

Joseph was born in Coroneo, Mexico, and joined the Franciscans when he was 17. Because of Mexico’s civil unrest at that time (the forces of Pancho Villa had crossed into New Mexico on a raid the previous year), he was forced to take his philosophy and theology studies in California.

After ordination at Mission Santa Barbara, he returned to Mexico and served at Jerecuaro from 1922 on. The persecution under the presidency of Plutarco Calles (1924-28) forced Joseph to wear various disguises as he traveled around to visit the Catholics. In 1927, Church property was nationalized, Catholic schools were closed, and foreign priests and nuns were deported.

One day, Joseph and several others were captured while returning from a secretly held Mass. Father Perez was stabbed to death by soldiers a few miles from Celaya on June 2, 1928.

When Joseph’s body was later brought in procession to Salvatierra, it was buried there amid cries of “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

The Catholic Church in Mexico today is much freer than it was in the 1920s. Catholicism is very much alive in Mexico today, nurtured in part by martyrs like Father Perez.