Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bishop leads pilgrimage to "Georgia martyrs" site

Excerpts from the Savannah Morning News story...see the link above for the whole story.

Bishop leads pilgrimage to "Georgia martyrs" site

ST. CATHERINES ISLAND - Their last moments must have been lonely.

Surrounded by a mob of angry Indians, five Franciscan friars from Spain died trying to bring Christianity to the coast of modern Georgia.

More than 400 years later, leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah are working to have those missionaries declared martyrs, and someday, possibly saints.

After 23 years of research by church officials, the Rev. Conrad Harkins, a historian at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, hand-delivered documents to the Vatican in April - marking the official start of the argument for martyrdom for the friars.


Bishop J. Kevin Boland lead a Mass on Saturday within a rectangle of palm trees planted to mark the perimeter of the former Santa Catalina de Guale church.

More than a dozen church leaders and supporters of the cause participated in the Mass.

"I've wanted to do this for years," said Paul Thigpen, leader of Friends of the Georgia Martyrs, a network of about 300 supporters. "This has really been a moving experience for me."

One quibble with this article...I REALLY wish the author hadn't opened with the phrase "surrounded by a mob of angry Indians."

Is it factually incorrect? No. Have I gone politically correct here? No.

But combine it with a strange lack of any reference to devout Catholic Guale, and it comes off sounding like the Indians were unanimously against the missionaries. The division at the mission was not racial but religious--the Christian Guale supported, loved, and helped the missionaries, and the apostate Juanillo and his band hated them. One Guale chief warned Fray Antonio of the impending attack and offered to provide a canoe and rowers to take the friars to safety; the bodies of he and Fray Miguel were buried at the foot of the cross out of respect by Guale Christians.

More info at the Georgia Martyrs site:


Not a huge deal, and I'm sure the author didn't mean anything malicious by it, but something to bear in mind with these kinds of stories. It's not the first time Indian Catholics go completely ignored in these discussions.

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