Emilio Moscoso was born in Cuenca, Ecuador, on April 21, 1846. Even as a child, Emilio showed a solid religious life shaped by a profoundly Catholic social and family environment. In 1864, at the age of 18, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in his native city. The Jesuits of Ecuador were at that time a “mission” dependent on the Province of Castile in Spain. He was ordained a priest in 1876 and made his final vows on September 8, 1879.
In 1895, when the liberal revolution prevailed in Ecuador and legislation was passed restricting the Catholic Church, a new era began in the country. Ecuadorian Jesuits were at the front lines in the defense of the Church. They promoted, among other practices, devotion to the Heart of Jesus and to Mary Immaculate, devotions that had already for some time been fostered by the Society. In the small city of Riobamba, 1896 was a year of tribulation because of the harsh conditions imposed by the anticlerical regime. The situation grew worse at the end of April 1897 when the authorities arbitrarily imprisoned the bishop, Monsignor Arsenio Andrade, accusing him of conspiring against the government. Under pressure from the regime, the easy option would have been to close the college and abandon the city, but Emilio Moscoso and his companions stood firm in their commitment to serve the youth of Riobamba. The testimony of fortitude in the Spirit offered by the rector of Saint Philip Neri College in the days before his death was extraordinary.
At dawn on May 4, 1897, while repelling an attack by a rebel group, government forces violently profaned the Eucharist in the college chapel. They then went after the religious; two officers found the rector in his room praying on his knees before the crucifix, with the rosary in his hand, and they shot him at point-blank range.
The simple life and brave martyrdom of this brother of ours teaches us many lessons: the joy and austerity of his dedication; his deep devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary; his witness of poverty and obedience as he faithfully fulfilled his daily obligations; the simple and orderly community life of his day; his bravery in defending the faith and the Church; his steadfast solidarity with the citizens of Riobamba, remaining with them in the most difficult times; his care for the body of the Society as he visited his companions in prison and returned to the college to share the fate of his community. After many years dedicated to teaching and the apostolate of prayer, Emilio Moscoso came face to face with persecution.
Letter from Fr Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General, 8 November 2019
Read: Ecuador – Fr. Emilio Moscoso is beatified