San Vitores, Diego Luis de, Bl.

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Jesuit missionary priest, martyr; b. Nov. 12, 1627, Burgos, Spain; d. April 2, 1672, at Tomhon Beach, Agana, Guam.

Born into the Spanish nobility, Diego attended the Imperial College, Madrid, and was raised in the royal court. From age eleven, Diego wanted to join the Society of Jesus and become a missionary despite his parents' hope that he would aspire to a political career.

He entered the novitiate of the jesuits at Villarejo de Fuentes in 1640, completed his studies at Huete and Alcalá de Henares, and was ordained in 1651. Thereafter he taught at Oropesa, Madrid, and Alcalá de Henares (1655), where he also undertook a ministry to the sick and gave parish missions.

Given permission to go to the Philippines, Diego sailed via Mexico, where he landed at Veracruz (July 28, 1660). Unable to secure passage to the Orient, he conducted missions and evangelized in the streets of Mexico City. After finally reaching Manila (July 10, 1662), he studied Tagalog while serving as university dean and master of novices. In his spare time he engaged in missionary work in the interior of Luzon and on Mindoro Island.

With the permission of King Philip IV of Spain (reigned 162165), Diego sailed back to Mexico City to obtain permission and funds for a mission to the Ladrones Islands, renamed in 1668 to Marianas Islands in honor of the regent Mariana of Asturia. The missionaries left Acapulco, Mexico, on March 23, 1668, and arrived at the archipelago on June 15, 1668. There they learned and adopted local customs, and converted some 50,000 people on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, including High Chief Quipuha (Kepuha), whose clan provided the land for the basilica built in 1669. Diego also compiled a grammar and vocabulary of the lingua Mariana, opened two seminaries, and erected eight churches before the mission was beset with problems.

Prompted by false rumors spread about Christianity, some of the new converts abandoned the faith and others became hostile. These heightened suspicions and societal changes led to the martrydom of Diego and his catechist Bl. Pedro calungsod. Influenced by this hostile climate, Chief Matapang did not consent to the baptism of his infant daughterrequested by his wife who did not otherwise need his permissionand became irate at Diego and Calungsod. With his companion, Hirao, Matapang brutally attacked the priest and the catechist and threw them into the ocean tied to rocks. A memorial now stands on the site of their martyrdom.

San Vitores was beatified by John Paul II, Oct. 6,1985.

Feast: Oct. 6 (Jesuits).

Bibliography: L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 42 (1985): 67. Father San Vitores, His Life, Times, and Martyrdom, ed. e. g. johnston (Agana, Guam 1979). f. garcÍa, Sanvitores in the Marianas, tr. f. plaza (Mangilao, Guam 1980). a. del ledesma, Mission in the Marianas: An Account of Father Diego Luis de Sanvítores and His Companions, 16691670, tr. ward barrett of Noticia de los progressos de nuestra Santa Fe, en las Islas Marianas desde 15 de mayo de 1669 (Minneapolis 1975). p. murillo velarde, The "Reducción" of the Islands of the Ladrones, the Discovery of the Islands of the Palaos, and Other Happenings, tr. f. e. plaza (Mangilao, Guam 1987). f. plaza, Sanvitores, bibliografía de las materias existentes en el Micronesian Area Research Center (Agana, Guam 1975). a. risco, The Apostle of the Marianas: The Life, Labors, and Martyrdom of Ven. Diego Luis de San Vitores, tr. j. m. h. ledesma, ed. o. l. calvo (Agana, Guam 1970). j. a. de sobrino, Tres que dijeron 'si' (Madrid 1985). j. n. tylenda, Jesuit Saints & Martyrs (Chicago 1998): 337339.

[k. i. rabenstein]