UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

St John-Louis Bonnard and St Augustine Schoffler, Vietnamese Martyrs

France and Vietnam

John-Louis Bonnard and Augustine Schoffler were martyred together on 1 May 1852 at Son-tai, Tonkin, Vietnam.  They were 28 and 30 years old respectively.

John-Louis Bonnard was born in 1824 in St Christot-en-Jarret in the south of France. He began his studies for the priesthood in the seminary of Lyon and then, at the age of 22, moved to the Seminary of the Foreign Missions in Paris. He was ordained a priest in 1850, at the age of 26, and set sail for the missions of Tonkin in northern Vietnam in May of the same year.  In 1851 he was put in charge of two parishes, even though at the time it was forbidden to make converts in Vietnam.

On 21 March 1852, he was arrested for the c rime of being a missionary and cast into prison. He was sentenced to death and then executed by beheading in Tonkin on 1 May 1852.

His remains were thrown into the river, but recovered by Christians and later sent to the Society of Foreign Missions. His blood-covered garments, links of his chains, his hair and his beard were kept by the soldiers who executed him and sold to Christians.

Augustine Schoffler was martyred with John-Louis Bonnard. He had been born in 1822 at Mittelbronn, in Moselle in the north east of France. After studies for the priesthood and ordination, he became a member of the Paris Society of Foreign Missions in 1846. He arrived in Viet Nam 1848, in the Christian area of Bono. There he was betrayed to soldiers who, as part of a general persecution, were hunting Christians. An account of his death in 1852 reads:

Father Schoeffler walked to his place of execution, a placard, which read “He preached truly the whole charge of preaching the religion of Jesus. His crime is patent. Let Mr. Augustin be beheaded, and cast into a stream” was carried before him. Augustin Schoeffler’s head was thrown into the Red River, and was never recovered. The crowd rushed to collect relics. Some even uprooted the grass that was stained with his blood. His body was buried on the site of his execution. Two days later, local Christians exhumed the body and reburied it in a Christian village nearby.

Both martyrs were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.