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Canadian Martyrs

Blog written by Sofia Ricciardi and Lina Ricciardi

By now, Canadians are hopefully aware that 2017 is a special year since it is the 150th anniversary of Canada, (or the 150th anniversary of Confederation), also known as Canada 150.  If you want to be really fancy, 2017 marks the “sesquicentennial” anniversary of Canadian Confederation … that’s a mouthful.  

As Canadians we need to recall the Canadian Martyrs, the 8 Jesuit missionaries from Ste. Marie among the Hurons (presently known as Midland, Ontario), the headquarters of the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.  The martyrs were tortured and killed in the mid 17th century in southern Ontario, Canada and upstate New York.  

Two of the eight missionaries, René Goupil and Jean de la Lande, were laymen and the other six were priests:   Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Antoine Daniel, Saint Jean de Brébeuf, Saint Gabriel Lalemant, Saint Charles Garnier, and Saint Noël Chabanel.  All eight Jesuit missionaries were born in France and arrived in Quebec during the 1620s and 1630s on a mission to evangelize and convert the Iroquois and to achieve peace between the French and the Mohawk.  

The Canadian martyrs were killed in their missions to evangelize the Iroquois,  five of them in Huron territory, about 150 km north of Toronto.  

 To honour these saints, there are two shrines. The Canadian Martyrs Shrine is situated in Midland Ontario,  the site of the Jesuit’s missionary work among the Huron.   The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs is situated south of the Mohawk River, (now upstate New York), near a Jesuit cemetery containing remains of the three missionaries who died in that area.

 The Canadian martyrs were canonized on June 29, 1930, by Pope Pius XI. In 1940, Pope Pius XII declared them to be secondary patrons of Canada, after St. Joseph.  Their feast day is September 26.  

 The work of these brave Jesuit missionaries is a reminder that evangelization, even in nearly impossible situations, needs to continue in our present day.  We should follow their example and teach others about our Catholic faith; in order to teach our faith, however, we need to know our faith.  This Summer, we encourage you to learn more about the teachings of our Catholic church, read the bible, understand the catechism, attend mass regularly, pray and pass the knowledge along to others who are thinking of leaving the church.  You don’t have to be a martyr or a saint to evangelize.    God Bless!

Happy 150th Birthday Canada!