Fr. Agatho Rolf, Bishop Sylvester Walleser, and the Vicariate College at Tsinchow (Tianshui)

>> Sunday, January 4, 2009

Capuchin Fathers Agatha Rolf, 53, (above left) and Rudolph Blockinger, 35, the first two foreign missionaries of the old Pennslvania Province, went to China in 1922 to work with Rhine-Westphalian Capuchins under Bishop Sylvester Walleser. — Walleser (shown above on muleback) and his missionaries were expelled from the Marianna Island by the league of Nations at the end of WWI and sent by Rome to Tsinchow (Tianshui), Gansu, China, today a city of 3.25 million . — Born in Pittsburgh in 1869, Agatho was assigned after his 1897 ordination to 21 years of Capuchin parish work in Wheeling, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Herman, and Canal Dover and Pittsburgh. In Charleston he built a rectory, in Herman a school. His efforts also were largely responsible for the erection of Capuchin College in Washington. Before going to China, he served served 17 years as local superior, six as definitor, and two as a itinerant preacher. He also was a co-organizer of the Catholic Students Mission Crusade, and at its first national meeting in Tecnhy IL helped write its constitutions. Agatho went to China fulfilling a vow made in youth. He survived Kansu's 1929 typhus epidemic which killed thousands, including Pennsylvania Province's Fr. Gabriel McCarthy, Calvary Province's Fr. Felix Schelb and six other Capuchins. In 1931 he had an opportunity to return to the States but stayed to minister to the victims of another typhus outbreak and thus died as a martyr of charity on July 7, 1931. Fr. Rudolph remained in Gansu for another 20 years; and when expelled by the Communists, joined the Capuchins in Australia where he served as a missionary till his death in 1969. (Photos among items left behind in Victoria by Fr. Bertrand Brookman in 1974).


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