- Father Job Chittilappilly, 71, was found dead with numerous stab wounds Aug. 28 in his home next to the parish church of Our Lady of Grace in the village of Thuruthiparambu, Kerala, India. The Indian priest was attacked and murdered while reciting the rosary before Mass. The Syro-Malabar rite priest had received threats and warnings to stop "proselytizing."
- Samuel Masih, a Catholic Pakistani youth arrested and accused of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed in August 2003, died in hospital on May 28. He had been treated for months for injuries suffered in prison at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist prison guards. The youth was charged with blasphemy after the owner of bookshop told the police that he saw him depositing garbage near the walls of a mosque in Lahore.
- Father Gerard Nzeyimana, 65, episcopal vicar of the Diocese of Bururi, in Burundi, was killed Oct. 19 while traveling with other people in a car from Bururi to Bujumbura. A group of gunmen stopped the car and told the occupants to hand over money and valuables. After carefully examining the priest's identity papers they killed him in cold blood with a few shots in the head, leaving the other passengers beaten and bleeding on the roadside. Father Nzeyimana was known for promoting peace and denouncing violence against civilians.
- Sister Christiane Philippon, 58, regional superior of the Congregation of Notre Dame des Apôtres, was killed early Dec. 26 in Chad, on the road from Ba Hilli to N'Djamena. Sister Christiane was traveling with three other women religious to the capital to attend in a meeting of her congregation. The car was assaulted by bandits who opened fire and shot Sister Christiane dead and wounded the other three religious.
Not all died because of their faith -- some apparently lost their lives for the most vulgar of motives (murdered for a cellphone?). But some appear to be martyrs in the traditional sense of the word, losing their lives because of their proclamation of the Gospel.
How casually we take our practice of the Catholic faith for granted; how often we forget those in other parts of the world who risk -- and lose -- their life in service to the Savior. Sometimes I wonder if I could do the same.
May God grant that each and every Christian would have this kind of courage if we found ourselves in such circumstances.
For all of our missionaries who died this year: Eternal rest grant unto them, 0 Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them.