North American Martyrs
(A group of seven French-born Jesuits who were missionaries to the Huron, Mohawk and Tobacco Indians in what is now upstate New York)
Also known as: Isaac Jogues and Companions
The Jesuits were killed by the Mohawk, bitter enemies of the Huron and Tobacco, between 1642 and 1649, making them the first Catholic martyrs in North America. The Mohawk, one of the five nations of the Iroquois (there are now six nations), all but succeeded in driving the Huron and Tobacco to extinction, and the Jesuit missions were closed shortly after the last martyr died. There is a shrine to the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, in the diocese of Albany. It is on the site of the death of the first three martyrs and the birthplace (in 1656) of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks.” The shrine is also a center of devotion to the Virgin Mary, for it was here that the first recorded recitation of the rosary in what is now New York State took place, on September 29, 1642.
The shrine was initiated on August 15, 1885, as a wooden cross and a tiny chapel, but operated only that one day. It was re-created in 1985 as a pilgrimage center on 600 acres of land, with buildings and facilities capable of serving thousands of people. In the order of their deaths, the martyrs are: René Goupil (1606–1642). Also known as: Renatus Goupil. Born at Anjou, France, René was a successful surgeon when, in 1638, he went to Quebec, Canada, to work at the Jesuit mission hospital. In 1640 he became a lay assistant to the Huron mission. In 1642, while on a journey with Isaac Jogues, he was captured by a group of Mohawk.
He was tomahawked to death on September 29 at Ossernenon (now Auriesville) for making the sign of the cross on the brows of some children. Isaac Jogues (1607–1646). Isaac was born at Orléans, France, on January 1, 1607. He studied at the Jesuit school in Orléans, joined the order at Rouen in 1624, and continued his education at La Flèche, where he was ordained in 1636. He asked to be sent as a missionary to Quebec, from where he set out to minister to the Huron. He was captured by the Mohawk along with René Goupil and endured 13 months of slavery during which he was tortured so severely that he lost the use of both hands. (He was given a special dispensation by Pope Urban VIII [r. 1623–44] to continue to say Mass despite this deformity.) Dutch Calvinists from Fort Orange (now Albany, New York) eventually helped him escape and he went back to France. However, in 1644 he returned to Quebec.
In the three years since his captivity, a peace treaty had been signed with the Iroquois federation, and Isaac and John de Lalande undertook a mission to the Mohawk. On their second visit, they left behind a box of religious objects. When an epidemic of disease swept the people and crops failed shortly after their departure, the Jesuits were blamed, and on their third visit, they were killed. Isaac died on October 18, 1646. John de Lalande (Jean de Lalande) (d. 1646). Born at Dieppe, France, John was a lay assistant to the Jesuit missionaries in Quebec. In 1646, he accompanied Isaac Jogues on his trips to the Mohawk, and was taken captive along with him in October. He was killed on October 19, the day after Isaac. Their heads were impaled on the settlement palisades and their bodies thrown into the Mohawk River.
Antony Daniel (1601–1648). Born at Dieppe, France, on March 27, 1601, Antony studied law, but gave up his career to join the Jesuits at Rouen in 1621. He was ordained in 1630, and in 1632 was sent as a missionary to Cape Breton Island, Acadia, New France (now Canada). The following year he went to Quebec, from which he launched expeditions to the Huron. In 1636, he founded a school for Native American boys in Quebec. Antony was killed by a party of Mohawk at the Huron village of Teanustaye (near Hillsdale, Ontario) on July 4, 1648. John de Brébeuf (Jean de Brébeuf) (1593–1649). Born at Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France, on March 25, 1593, John attended the university in Caen and worked on his parents’ farm before joining the Jesuits at Rouen in 1617. He was ordained in 1622, and in 1625 asked to be sent to Quebec as a missionary. For the next 24 years he worked with the Huron, founding schools and producing a catechism in Huron and a dictionary of the language.
Responsible for some 7,000 conversions, he was captured by Mohawk warriors on March 16, 1649. Following the Iroquois practice with captives, he was cruelly tortured for hours, mutilated, burned to death and finally eaten. Gabriel Lalement (1610–1649). Born in Paris, Gabriel joined the Jesuits in 1630. He taught at Moulins for three years, and after further study at Bourges, was ordained in 1638. After teaching at La Flèche and Moulins, he was sent to Canada at his request in 1646 as a missionary. He, too, worked among the Hurons, became assistant to John de Brébeuf at Saint Ignace in 1649, and was with him in the village when the Iroquois attacked and destroyed it on March 16, killing all the inhabitants except the two priests. After torturing them, the Iroquois tomahawked them to death the next day. Charles Garnier (1606–1649). Charles was born in Paris in 1606, son of the treasurer of Normandy.
After studying at the Jesuit Louis-le-Grand College in Clermont, he joined the order in 1624 and was ordained in 1635. He asked to go to Quebec, from which he was sent to the Hurons. When the neighboring Tobacco asked for a mission in 1646, he began to work with them, and was in one of their villages when the Mohawk attacked on December 7, 1649. Charles ran about giving absolutions and baptisms until he was killed by a hatchet blow. Some of his Indian converts buried him on the spot where the church had stood. Noël Chabanel (1613–1649).
Born near Mende, France, on February 2, 1613, Noël joined the Jesuit order in 1630. In 1643 he was sent to the Quebec mission, and from there to the Hurons. He joined Charles Garnier in establishing a mission to the Tobacco. Noel was visiting another village when Charles was killed. He himself was murdered by a Huron apostate on December 8, 1649, the day after Charles’s death. The cultus of the North American Martyrs was extended universally in 1969 as the protomartyrs of North America.