Vivian Redlich: An inspiring modern martyr

Fr Vivian Redlich 1905-1942

I’m trying to stick, whatever happens. If I don’t come out of it just rest content that I have tried to do my job faithfully.

Vivian Frederick Barnes Redlich, the son of a priest, grew up in Leicestershire and studied for the priesthood at Chichester Theological College and was ordained in 1932 in Wakefield Cathedral. He received a call to missionary work, joining the Bush Brotherhood in Australia. After five years he moved to Papua New Guinea and in 1941 was appointed priest in charge of the Sangara district. He worked hard, and led a disciplined priestly life. A contemporary commented: Vivian Redlich was a very thin man, not very strong, and inclined to discipline himself into doing things that seemed to be beyond his strength. His eyesight was weak and he wore very thick glasses.

Hard work and tiredness led his Bishop to suggest he have a break in Dogura, New Guinea in early 1942. During the break he became engaged to Sr May Hayman, a missionary nursing sister in a mission station about 30 miles away.

Detail from a stained glass window commemorating the martyrs in St Peter’s Church, Melbourne

He travelled back through the chaos and turmoil of the Japanese  invasion, and went ashore, slipping through the Japanese lines. He established himself in a bush hide-out. From here he wrote a letter to his father which is now in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. I’m trying to stick whatever happens. If I don’t come out of it just rest content that I’ve tried to do my job faithfully. On the Sunday morning, as he prepared for Mass he was told  that a villager had gone to report him to the Japanese but he calmly replied that it was the Lord’s day and he would celebrate Mass for the people as planned. After Mass he set off to rescue his fiancee. On the way he was ambushed by local tribesmen and beheaded.

Fr Vivian was martyred as a direct result of his faithfulness to his calling to serve God and His church. His dedication to worship and pastoral care have greatly inspired many to consider vocation to the priesthood. 

Twelve anglican missionaries, including Fr Vivian and May Hayman died as a result of the Japanese invasion. They are commemorated in Anglican Church calendars on September 2nd, New Guinea Martyrs Day.

We remember Reverend Vivian Redlich
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the life of Vivian Redlich,
who in obedience to your call,
left the comforts and security of his homeland
and with others ministered your word and sacraments.
Stir up the hearts of all ordained ministers
to serve you well in all circumstances and
to hold high your light of truth and love.

(From the Liturgy for the Martyrs: Bishop Denys Ririka)

 

All powerful and ever living God,
turn our weakness into strength.
As you gave your Martyrs of Papua New Guinea the courage to suffer death for Christ,
give us the courage
to live in faithful witness to you. 
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

(The collect for the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea)

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About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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