Ford, Francis Xavier

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Bishop, missionary; b. Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan. 11, 1892; d. Canton, China, Feb. 21, 1952. He was the son of Austin B. Ford, publisher of the Irish World, the New York Freeman's Journal, and the Monitor. His mother, Elizabeth (Rellihan) Ford, was a teacher and newspaper woman. Ford attended St. Francis Preparatory School, Brooklyn, and Cathedral College, New York City, where he became interested in the newly founded Catholic Foreign Mission Society. In 1912 he became the first seminarian to enter the society's headquarters at Hawthorne, N.Y. He was ordained in 1917, and was one of the first four Maryknoll Missioners to leave for the Orient the next year. As superior of the Maryknoll mission in Yeoungkong, South China, he opened the first Maryknoll seminary for Chinese students in 1921 and the following year welcomed the first group of Maryknoll Sisters. In 1925 he became prefect apostolic of a new mission among the Hakkas in northern Kwangtung (Meihsien), with Kaying as its center. This prefecture became the vicariate apostolic of the same area in 1935 (a diocese in 1946), and Ford was named titular bishop of Etenne. He was consecrated by Maryknoll's cofounder, Bp. James A. Walsh, on Sept. 21, 1935. Ford remained in South China during World War II, directing limited mission work and caring for refugees from the coastal areas occupied by the Japanese. Five years later, with the arrival of the Communists from the North, he became the object of a systematic campaign of molestation and abuse. Arrested in December 1950 on charges of "anti-Communist, counter-revolutionary, and espionage activities," he was transferred to prison in Canton in April 1951. During the 200-mile trip he was subjected to public display and Communist ridicule at every stop. Subsequent interrogations and the rigors of Communist jail ended in his death, which was not revealed until Aug. 16, 1952.

Bibliography: f. x. ford, Come, Holy Spirit: Thoughts on Renewing the Earth as the Kingdom of God (New York 1976). r. a. lane, ed., Stone in the King's Highway: Selections from the Writings of Bishop Francis X. Ford (New York 1953). j. donovan, The Pagoda and the Cross: The Life of Bishop Ford of Maryknoll (New York 1967). r. sheridan, Compassion: The Spirit of Francis X. Ford, M.M. (New York 1982). m. (chai) tsai, "Bishop Ford, Apostle of South China," American Ecclesiastical Review 127 (Oct. 1952) 24147.

[w. j. coleman]