The Altar Stone of the Catholic Faith in New York State
The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is the site of the 17th Century Mohawk village of Ossernenon where three Jesuit missionaries were killed during the 1640s for their faith. Father Isaac Jogues and two lay Jesuits, René Goupil and John Lalande, traveled from France to the New World to evangelize the indigenous peoples. They, along with five Jesuit priests martyred in Canada, were canonized as the eight North American Martyrs in 1930. They are the first and only martyred saints of North America.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk/Algonquin maiden known for her purity and charity, was born here in 1656. Her life was a white martyrdom of persecution by the non-Christian members of her family and tribe. She died of natural causes in Canada in 1680 having remained steadfast in the Catholic faith and was canonized in 2012. Unlike the first Jesuit settlements in Canada, Ossernenon was initially not a mission. It was a place of captivity, torture, and finally one of negotiations, reconciliation, and mission. Father Jogues walked these grounds during three episodes over four years - the first time as a captive, the second as a peace ambassador, and the third as a missionary who met his martyrdom.
St. Joseph’s Church
Through the years, the site of Osserenon has been a parcel of the vast landscape of religious and ideological conflicts, epidemics, trade competitions, wars among the Native Americans and Europeans, the American Revolution and the construction of the Erie Canal. Although the Jesuit influence waxed and waned, St. Joseph’s Church in Troy, NY, was established by the 1840s, two hundred years after the capture of Father Jogues.
Our Lady of Martyrs
In 1884 its pastor, Rev. Joseph Loyzance, S.J. collaborated with other experts who determined that the Putnam farm in Auriesville was the site of Ossernenon. He purchased 10 acres of the farm and erected a cross and small chapel on the hill overlooking the Mohawk Valley. He called the shrine “Our Lady of Martyrs” for the Blessed Mother who stood at the cross of Jesus and has ever since consoled those who give their lives for her Divine Son.
The First Mass
Marking the 243rd anniversary of Father Jogues arrival at the village, Father Loyzance celebrated the first Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1885. Four thousand pilgrims attended. Local parishes adopted the practice of visiting Auriesville during the summer, especially on the significant anniversary of the Feast of the Assumption. Father Loyzance also established The Pilgrim, a publication to promote the Shrine and the causes for sainthood of the Martyrs and Kateri. (The Pilgrim today is counted among the oldest continuously printed publications in the country).
The Coliseum Church
More property was purchased and buildings and chapels constructed to accommodate the thousands of pilgrims. The enormous Coliseum church was completed in 1931 and seats 6500 people with standing room from an additional 3500.
Friends of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine
Through the decades, the numbers of pilgrims waxed and waned. When the waning became a financial liability, and a priest shortage created a staffing issue, the Jesuits were faced with the painful possibility of closing the doors.
With the perfect timing and strategy of the Holy Spirit, just the right people came together to form the Friends of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine. This not-for-profit was formed exclusively to own and operate the Shrine. And on March 22, 2017, the Society of Jesus generously transferred the deed for the main campus of the holy ground to “the Friends.”
Friends of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine
The Shrine continues to be the place of peace and renewal that the Auriesville saints procured centuries ago, and that the mercy of Christ ensures forever. The years have added richness of memories, grace of healing, and enhancement of its natural beauty.