Francis Xavier Ford (1892-1952) was born in Brooklyn and became the first seminarian for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, now known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. He was also one of three Maryknoll priests who were sent on the first overseas mission for the U.S. Church, departing for China on September 8, 1918.
According to Maryknoll
, Ford (in center of photo) spent his first seven years in Yeungkong. In 1925, he went to serve in Kaying, and for the next 27 years his leadership was crucial to the development of Christian communities in that part of China. Pope Pius XI, in 1935, named him the first bishop of Kaying.
"Bishop Ford experienced mission as more than just building structures," Maryknoll said. "He understood the essence of mission as building person-to-person relationships. The one structure he did create was a seminary for the education and training of young Chinese priests."
He accompanied his people through the Japanese attacks on China, including Kaying, as well as the civil war between the Communist and Nationalist forces.
After the Communist party seized power, Bishop Ford and other Maryknollers were viewed as agents of American imperialism.
"Chinese officials soon began closing churches and parish houses," the missionary society said. "When the Unites States entered into war with North Korea, tensions grew and Bishop Ford was prohibited from participating in activities outside of Kaying. The first Maryknoll priests and Sisters were arrested and deported during December 1950."
Shortly after that, Bishop Ford was investigated and interrogated for four months. Arrested during April 1951, he was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to indefinite imprisonment in Guangzhou. His health declined rapidly and he died less than a year later.