TestAbout UsEvents/InfoResourcesServiceAbout UsEvents/InfoResourcesService

Events Resources


The Jesuit Martyrs' - Saints of North America

St. Jean de Brèbeuf and his companions had hoped to establish a Church in Huronia that would be at once fully Catholic and fully Huron. In 1969 at Ste-Marie, they built "a house of prayer and a home of peace," a community where white and aboriginal people were to dwell together in harmony, where the rites and traditions of both Europeans and Hurons could be strengthened and enriched by the values of the Gospel. But their plans got caught up in tribal warfare, in the intrigues of the French and English courts, in the politics of the fur and brandy trades. Eight were beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1930: Jean de Brèbeuf, Isaac Jogues, Gabriel Lalement, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garnier, No'l Chabanel, Renè Goupil, and Jean de LaLande. Many others, including their native friends Joseph Chiwatenhwa and Kateri Tekakwitha, continued to inspire missionaries down to the present day. - adapted from the Introduction to Dictionary of Jesuit Biography

Renè Goupil (1606-1642)

Goupil had to leave the Jesuit novitiate because of ill health. He studied medicine and offered his services to the Jesuit missions in Canada. On his way to Ste. Marie, Iroquois captured him and Jogues. Like the other captives, he was beaten, his nails torn out, and his finger-joints cut off. It was a thirteen-day torturous journey to the Iroquois country. Near Ossernenon (now Auriesville, N.Y.), he survived fresh tortures. Unable to instruct his captors in the faith, he taught the children the sign of the cross - the cause of his death. He was killed by a hatchet-blow from an Iroquois and died invoking the name of Jesus in September 1642.

He was the first of the eight North American Jesuit martyrs to receive the palm of martyrdom. Just one month previously, Jogues received Goupil-s vows into the order. In his letters, Jogues calls Goupil 'an angel of innocence and a martyr of Jesus Christ.'


John de Lalande (1646)

Lalande, an expert woodsman, offered his services as a layman to the Jesuits in New France when he was just nineteen. His ministry began at Ste. Marie. He accompanied Jogues to the mission at Ossernenon in 1646, was captured with him and tortured. Lalande died a martyr on October 19, 1646, the day after Jogues.

Isaac Jogues (1607-1646)

Jogues came to Huronia in 1636, supplied at mission outposts for three years, helped to build Ste. Marie (1639), and with Raymbault, was probably one of the first Europeans to reach Sault Ste. Marie. Though a daring missionary, his character was of the most practical nature, his purpose always being to fix his people in permanent habitations. Iroquois, when returning to the Great Lakes from Quebec, captured him (and Goupil) in 1642 and carried him to the Indian village of Ossernenon, now Auriesville, on the Mohawk. He was tortured, lost his fingers, and made a slave for thirteen months.

He escaped to France with the help of Dutch Calvinists from Fort Orange (Albany). He was received with great honour at the court of the Queen Regent, the mother of Louis XIV, and was allowed by Pope Urban VII to celebrate Mass, though the mutilated condition of his hands had made this canonically impossible. The pontiff called him a martyr of Christ.

He returned to Canada in 1644 and in 1646 was sent to negotiate peace with the Iroquois. Well received by his former captors at Ossernenon, the peace treaty was made. He returned to Quebec but requested to be sent back to the Iroquois as a missionary. Unfortunately, sickness had broken out in the tribe and blight had fallen on the crops. This double calamity was attributed to Jogues whom the Indians always regarded as a sorcerer. The news of this change of sentiment spread rapidly, and though fully aware of the danger, Jogues continued on his way to Ossernenon though all his companions, except Lalande, fled. Iroquois met him near Lake George, stripped him naked, slashed him with their knives, beat him and then led him to the village. On October 18, 1646, he was struck with a tomahawk and afterwards decapitated. His head was fixed on the Palisades and his body thrown into the Mohawk.

Anthony Daniel (1601-1648)

Daniel was ordained a priest at twenty-nine, was a missionary near Bias-d'or Lakes (1632), founded the first boys' College in North America (Quebec 1635), and laboured in Huronia for twelve years. On July 4, 1648, Iroquois suddenly attacked his mission at Teanaostaia' (current Mount St. Louis). Before the palisades had been scaled, Daniel hurried to the church to encourage the Christian converts, give them general absolution and baptize the catechumens. Daniel did all in his power to aid his people and give time for some to escape. He faced the enemy in vestments. Seized with amazement the Iroquois halted for a moment, and then recovering themselves discharged at him a shower of arrows. His lifeless body was thrown into the burning church and both were consumed together.

Daniel was the first of the Jesuits sent to New France to receive the martyr's crown while ministering to the Hurons. Father Ragueneau, his superior, speaks of him in a letter to the general of the order as "a truly remarkable man, humble, obedient, united with God, of never failing patience and indomitable courage in adversity."

Charles Garnier (1606 1649)

Garnier was a Jesuit Missionary in Huronia at age thrity-one. He sailed to Canada in 1636 and in six months he mastered the difficult language. For thirteen years he was pastor and missionary to the Hurons and Petuns (Tobacco nation). Gentle, innocent, fearless, a person of faith he drew converts to the faith. His angelic patience amidst endless trials won him the title of lamb, of the mission, where Brébeuf was styled the lion.,

Several times -- first in 1637, then in 1639 with Jogues, and later with Pijart -- he strove to convert the Petuns. His constancy finally won out. In 1646 they asked for the black robes (Jesuits), and Garnier went to live with them until death. After decimating the Hurons, the Iroquois attacked the Petuns. During the massacre of St. John,s village (December 7, 1649), though wounded, Garnier continued to baptize neophytes and to assist a wounded Huron. In this act he died at the age of forty-four about thirty miles from Ste. Marie.

Noël Chabanel (1613-1649)


Chabanel was a Jesuit priest at twenty-eight. A successful professor and humanist in France, he had a strong
desire to come to the Canadian missions. In 1643, he was sent to Canada. Here he was unable to learn the native Huron language and felt useless in the ministry. Fearing his frustration might result in his own withdrawal from the work, he took a vow to remain in the missions, on the cross of seeming failure and always in the shadow of martyrdom. His death came secretly at the hands of an apostate on December 8, 1649 on the Nottawasaga, twenty-five miles from Ste. Marie.

Gabriel Lalemant (1610-1649)

Lalemant was a scholar who had a strong desire for the mission of Huronia. He arrived in Canada in 1646, and after remaining in Quebec for two years, was sent to the Huron missions as Brébeuf's assistant. He was scarcely there a month when Iroquois attacked the settlement. After setting fire to the village and killing many Huron, the Iroquois moved Lalemant and Brébeuf to St. Ignace where they were tied to stakes and tortured. Lalemant died March 17, 1649, the day after Brébeuf. He summed up his own strength, "My strength is the strength of God. In Him, I can do all things.


Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)
World Youth Day 2002 Patron Saint
Patroness of the Environment and Ecology

Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 of a Christian Algonquin mother and
a father who was the Turtle Chief of the Mohawks. When she was very young, smallpox destroyed her family and permanently damaged her own health, leaving her with a badly scarred face and poor vision.

Although uneducated and unable to read and write, Kateri led a life of prayer and penitential practices. She taught the young and helped those in the village who were poor or sick. Her favorite devotion was to fashion crosses out of sticks and place them throughout the woods. These crosses served as reminders that God is present everywhere in the world. When the winter hunting season took Kateri and many of the villagers away from the village, she made her own little chapel in the woods by carving a cross on a tree and spent time in prayer there, kneeling in the snow

In July 1677, Kateri left her village and embarked on a two-month journey of more than 320 km through woods, rivers, and swamps to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal because she wanted to devote her life to working for God. In 1678 she was received in the Confrèrie de la Sante-Famille and took a vow of perpetual chastity in 1679.

Kateri's motto was, "Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God that I may do it?" When asked why they gathered around Kateri in church, people answered that they felt close to God when she prayed. They said her face changed when she was praying. It became full of beauty and peace, as if she was looking at God's face. It is said that this transformation also occurred when she died in 1680.

Jean de Brèbeuf (1593-1649)
Patron Saint of Canada

Celebrated in history and poetry, Brèbeuf, the apostle of the Hurons, was the first Jesuit Missionary to arrive in Huronia in 1626. He worked throughout the entire district, founded mission outposts and converted thousands to the faith. A master of the Indian language, he compiled the first Huron-French dictionary, wrote a catechism in Huron and composed Canada's first Christmas carol, the Huron Carol, where he tried to incarnate the mystery of 'God-dwelling-among-us' in Native terms. Massive in body and untiring in endurance, the Indians called him Echon (load-bearer).

His visions of the cross and of his future martyrdom were fulfilled at age fifty-six when he was captured with Lallemant by Iroquois and dragged to St. Ignace, six miles from St. Marie. On March 16, 1649, he was tied to a stake and tortured for hours before dying. His flesh was stripped from the bone, his skin blistered by boiling water in mockery of the baptisms he had conducted among the Huron, his body burned by pitch and resin-drenched bark and a collar of red-hot tomahawk-heads placed around his neck, his lips cut off when he would not stop praying for the salvation of his tormentors and, finally, he was scalped and his heart ripped from his chest during his final conscious moments.

By 1650 the Huron nation was decimated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. However, it proved to be "one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church's history." Brèbeuf's courage and dedication inspired many and created a wave of vocations and missionary fervor in France, while giving new spirit to the missionaries in New France.

Brèbeuf had the heart of a giant and a genuine sensitivity toward the Hurons. His advice to new missionaries was: 'If I were asked to advise anyone who was beginning to work among the Indians, I would tell them frankly what I think they will themselves learn by experience, that is that they must be very careful not to condemn outright a thousand things that are part of Indian customs and which are often offensive to people trained and used to another way of life. It is easy to treat as 'irreligious' what is mere ignorance and to see the devil's intervention in what is merely human. (Remember) that it is difficult to see all in one day, and time is the most reliable teacher that one can consult.' In 1637, Brèbeuf drew up a list of instructions for Jesuit missionaries destined to work among the Hurons. His first instruction was, 'You must love these Hurons, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers.'

For more information on Martyrs' Shrine and the saints click http://www.martyrsshrine.com/