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The Douay Martyrs and their lasting legacy

The 158 Martyrs of Douai were a group of men who trained for the priesthood at Douai College during the English Reformation and were executed on their return to England for preaching the Catholic faith. Their executions took place between 1577 and 1680 when being a Catholic priest was considered high treason.

Fr Richard Nesbitt, the former Diocesan Vocations Director, highlights the importance of the Douay Martyrs for us today: ‘It really hits you how much we all owe to these priests and religious, as well as the men and women who risked their lives by sheltering and supporting them. They gave their lives to defend and preserve what we can so easily take for granted today, the Eucharist and other sacraments, praying the rosary, our connection with the Universal Church. We need to remember this today.’

These men continue to inspire us because they willingly took on their mission knowing that, as soon as they stepped onto English soil, their lives would be in danger. Their mission was not just to say mass but also to work among the poor and disadvantaged in many of England’s cities. In recognition of the work of these men and their sacrifice, 80 alumni of Douai College were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929, their feast day is the 29th October. It is marked by the school every year with a patronal feast mass. The Douay Martyrs teach us about sacrifice, ministry to the poor, faith and justice, all of which are part of the Douay Way.