Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J.
¡ Viva Cristo Rey !
Letters from a Friend
In January of 2006, Joan Camps Campins, a New Zealand artist, was looking at the internet, searching for a Catholic book. She came across the book Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J., and was surprised and delighted to see that Pro had been Beatified. Then she looked on Google and found Pro’s website.
Joan Camps Campins
Joan knew that Pro had been killed as a martyr for the faith. When she was in her teens, she found a card with a brief sketch of his life and the notation that someone hoped to open a cause for canonization for him. She wrote to the El Paso, Texas address listed on the card but never received a reply. (The Jesuits had left El Paso before Joan was born.) Discovering the news of Pro’s beatification on the web, Joan pulled down a box of things which had belonged to her father. She read again, with “new eyes”, the letters from her father’s friend – Miguel Agustin Pro.
The letters had been kept in a box in her mother’s wardrobe for years. From time to time they were taken out and shown to a few interested people. One letter had the signature cut off. Perhaps Joan’s father had pasted it onto a photo as a relic, but there was no photo stored with the letters. When her mother died in Trinidad in 1997, Joan brought the box back with her to New Zealand.
Juan Marius Camps-Campins was born and raised in Trinidad. He served as a doctor there for nearly fifty years, until his death in 1987. In 1922, eighteen year old Juan embarked on the steamship, the Peru, on his way to Bristol, UK to study medicine. Aboard ship, Juan met, and became friends with, the young Mexican Jesuit Miguel. Pro. They corresponded with each other and Juan kept some of Pro’s letters. At this time, Pro, age 33, was on his way back to Spain from Nicaragua where he had spent two years teaching at the Jesuit school in Granada. Pro was headed for Sarria (Barcelona) to study theology at the College of St. Ignatius, his last studies before ordination. During the long ocean voyage, which lasted from July to September, the two young men had time to get acquainted, to visit and to get up to a few tricks as well. Like Pro, Juan had a mischievous sense of humor.
Juan Marius Camps-Campins
One morning, walking about the ship, Pro noticed a very sick Chinaman, writhing in pain. With all the assumed professionalism of a real physician, Pro rolled back the man’s eyelids, looked at his coated tongue, took his pulse and prescribed a large dose of castor oil. The following morning, “Doctor” Pro prescribed a second, and then a third dose, and was finally rewarded when the man met him on deck and thanked him profusely for his cure! That young Juan may have acted as his “assistant” in this helpful prank is shown in one of Pro’s letters.
Pro’s letters to Juan are written in English. Although born in Spain, Juan’s parents did not speak Spanish to their children. At the time, Trinidad was a British Colony, and it was considered “uncool” to speak anything other than English.
In his letters to his young friend, Pro encourages Juan in his faith, and predicts that he will be a good Catholic doctor. This prediction came true. Juan loved God and loved his profession, and he was loved in return. He was humble, kind and gentle, and would do anything for anyone.
Joan recalls overhearing her father talking and laughing in his office with his patients, for whom he had all the time in the world. Many different types of people came to their house where her father also had his practice - from the Bishop, and the Governor General's wife, to a simple Indian gardener, or a household maid. Late one Saturday night the gardener Boysie was brought to the good doctor by his in-laws. The man was in great distress, with a bleeding lip. Practically the whole village turned up at the doctor’s front door. Boysie had gotten drunk and been in a fight. Calmly, the doctor stitched his lip then and there.
At night, Dr. Camps Campins would often be called out to someone with a heart condition or to a woman in labor. During the day, his patients sat on the family verandah, happily chatting as they waited their turn.
A large picture of the Sacred Heart hung in the family home. It was a wedding gift from Solomon Hochoy, the Governor General of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s, and one of Juan’s classmates.
In 1983, Dr. Juan Marius Camps-Campins was awarded the gold Humming Bird Medal for his services to the Community. This award, instituted in 1969, is awarded for loyal and devoted service beneficial to the state in any field, or for acts of gallantry. It is one of the highest awards presented by the country of Trinidad.
On his rare vacations by the seaside, Dr. Camps-Campins painted watercolors as a hobby. Joan and her brother Adrian inherited their father’s artistic ability, and both are artists. Although Joan emigrated to New Zealand, she paints in Trinidad native style. To see her art, and that of her brother, visit artsocietytt.org
Five of Pro’s cards and letters to Juan survive. They are transcribed below, including Pro’s errors.
7th March 23
Six months have passed since my arrival here and I have not yet gotten a chance to visit your aunt as you had requested me to do. Since you know here address already tell me whether you would still wish me to pay that visit. Best of success in your examination – With greeting,
M.A. Pro, S.J. (original document side 1 - original document side 2)
13th July 23
De San Ignacio
Mr. Juan Camps – Campins Clifton
My dear friend,
I am very glad indeed to receive your photo and see again my old good companion on our great “Peru”.
It seemed to me that I was again on boardship playing frog game with Rios, Russian, and you, as well as playing tricks on that little English boy, or curing the poor Chinese who was crying out all day long “O my! I’ll be dead before I arrive to Plymouth, because my bowels do not move t all.” Do you remember these funny incidents?
I’ll never forget out nun with her very silent merry widow, nor our old fat Dido, seating and sleeping 26 hours a day, nor the old Portuguese with his four finger daughter and so forth, and so forth. I am also very glad to learn that you had a successful examination in Organic Chemistry. Be sure of meeting very success in your studies as long as you continue being faithful and loyal to your catholic duties and to our dear Lord.
Thanking you again for your kindness and asking you to breath a fervent prayer for me in your daily devotions, I remain
Yours truly, Miquel A Pro, S.J.
P.S. Fr. Rios send you his beast regards. Let me send you my own photo. Don’t you think that I am always the same?
(original document side 1 - original document side 2)
27th June 24
Colegio Maximo De San Ignacio
My dear Juan,
The feast of the Sacred Heart gives me the opportunity to write you a few lines. I am very busy at this time on account of my three Theological exams which I will end my 2nd Theological yer on 19th of July.
This morning in Holy Communion I prayed for you, thanking God for the great favour of your health, He granted you in being able to kill all the Klebs – Loffler Bacillus, that threatened you with the death especially a that very time when you were so heroically undertaking to obtain the right power to stay the attacks of death. [editor’s note: apparently Juan had suffered a bout of diphtheria during a dangerous and deadly epidemic of the disease in the 1920s; the vaccine to prevent it came into wide use in the 1940s.]
Now, my old boy, you must return the favor by loving more and more the Sacred Heart of Jesus. All the graces that we received in life come from the Sacred Heart, which fervently desires to pour upon all man in the world, all possible blessings and ardently longs to convert all hearts to it. He said, “Behold the heart which has loved men so much.” And certainly He loves us poor and wretched siners who always return ingratitude for his pure love and helas! Who always pay back sin and sin in place of love.
You have now a splendid opportunity to accomplish great good in the interet of the Sacred Heart, attending to sick people at the Royal Infirmary. Try to make the most of your position et profession to store up in Heaven a great stock of merit.
The book which you promised me will be very welcme and much appreciated. But instead of book on literature I would prefer book of science that you kindly offered me. The following will serve my purpose splendidly: Histology by Schaffler and an English Physiology.
Since the first slides I send to you have not arrived, I will send others of the Nervous System or of any other subject that maybe of greater service to you.
And I will finish… pardon me all my mistakes in writing English language, see only my good will.
As I often pray for you and yours, do not forget me in your prayers and especially at the time of Holy Communion.
Sincerely, [editor’s note: the signature has been cut from this letter.]
(original document page 1 - original document page 2 - original document page 3)
6th Sep. 1924
Dear Juan, A few days before I go out from Sarria, I wrote you a postcard saying that my superiors have sent me to Engheim to remain here for three years. I will finish there my theological studies and I hope you will come to Belgium, by assisting my first Mass, when time is come. I have not any English books so that you will find on my letters many mistakes, but I think that your charity will forgive it.
There are many funy things on that twon, I never so it. It is very cold and dark; it rains all day long; the sun is always cloud; and I often remember the great poems of Longfellow:”The day is cold, and dark and dreary; - it rains and the wind is never weary.”
I was studying the French language; it is very hard for me because I never like it; however I try to do it. I am able to understand everythings, but I can not speak at all. The grace of God will help me, and before we begin our school on 1th of Oct., easily I could have a conversation with the French Fathers, I suppose – How are you? How is your health? When will you combined your studies? Have the poor and sick people at hospital bring to you a good occasion to be an Apostle of Charity? I have asked to Father Jesus Amonurrutia at Sarria, to send to me every book you have send to me as soon as he has finished our second volume of Biology. Well, Dear Juan, pray for me as I make it every day, I wll expect your letter.
Mike A. Pro, S.J.
My address: Maison St. Augustine, 7 Rue de Augustine. Engheim, Belgium (original document side 1 - original document side 2)
Clinique Sanit Remi
My dear John,
I was most pleased to receive your fine letter of some days ago. Your words of congratulations and good wishes, together with your promises of prayers were most heartily appreciated. [ illigible here ] to remember both you and your dear mother on the day of my first Mass. As you perceive by this [?] address your letter found me in the hospital. I came here on November 17th to undergo a much needed operation for pyloric ulcers. The operation has been as successful as medical skill and good nursing could possibly make it, and I feel sure that my troubles are at an end. Would that you could have been present. I know that under your vigilant medical eye it would have been even more successful. It gives me great pleasure to know that you are enjoying good health, and that you are meeting with great success in your professional studies. May Our Lord bring your efforts to a most happy close, and make you a good Catholic doctor. For this intention I have prayed, and with [ illegible ] Thank your mother for her kind blessings, and assure her of a memento in my Masses and prayers. Your letters are alwys a pleasure, so write whenever you have the time or inclination.
Very sincerely yours in Christ,
Miguel A. Pro, S.J.
Maison St. Augustin
7 Rue de Augustin
Engheim, Belgique (original document side 1 - original document side 2)