Blessed Maurice Tornay

Blessed Maurice TornayAlso known as

  • Mauritius
  • Mauricio



Seventh of eight children born to Jean-Joseph Tornay and Faustina Dossier, and likely named for Saint Maurice of the Theban Legion who had been martyred in the area. He was baptised at 13 days old, made his First Communion at age 7, and during his youth he walked a hour each way each week through the mountain passes to get to church. Raised on a farm, he helped his family work it in his time after school. In his teens, he studied for six years at the school at the Abbey of Saint Maurice where he was an exceptional student with a love of French literature, and where he served as president of his class. Pilgrim to Lourdes, France. Maurice had a special devotion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and would read to class mates from works by Saint Thérèse and Saint Francis de Sales.

Member of the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine, Hospitallers of Saint Nicholas and Grand-St-Bernard of Mont Joux, beginning his novitiate on 25 August 1931 and making his first vows on 8 September 1932. His studies and plans to be a missionary were interrupted for surgery and recovery in 1934 due to a stomach ulcer, but he made his solemn vows in 1935, and in 1936 was sent to the mission in Weixi, Yunnan in southwest China on the border of Tibet. There he spent his initial time studying theology, medicine, dentistry, the local language, and praying about his vocation. Ordained a priest in Hanoi (in modern Vietnam) on 24 April 1938. In the summer of 1938 he was tasked with founding and supervising the Houa-Lo-Pa seminary for local students; he also taught and worked on spiritual formation. He claimed that the largest hurdle to overcome in all this work was his own laziness. When the Japanese invaded the region in 1939, some of the work had to be scaled back, and Father Maurice was forced to beg for food for his seminarians.

In 1945 he was named pastor of the Yerkalo mission in Tibet where Dalai Lama Gun-Akhio ruled. The Lama hated Christian missionaries, helped instigate antiChristian persecutions, and Maurice withdrew to China in hopes of convincing the Buddhists to reduce the pressure on Tibetan Christians. In addition to ministering to converts and the sick, and praying for a way to resume his mission, Maurice asked the Apostolic Nuncio and Chinese government to intervene with Gun-Akhio, but diplomacy failed. In July 1949 he planned to travel to Lhasa to plead with the Dalai Lama for religious freedom for Christians, but some Tibetan guards ambushed and shot him; the guards later received a cash reward for this work. Martyr.






To fulfill my vocation to leave the world and devote myself entirely to the service of souls to lead them to God, and save myself. – Blessed Maurice’s mission statement upon joining the Canons

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Maurice Tornay“. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 May 2020. Web. 4 December 2021. <>