This day honours the eight martyrs of North America – six Jesuit priests and two lay assistants – who died between 1642 and 1649. All came from Europe in response to a call for “missionaries to the Indians”, and all showed great courage. The first group, who died in the United States, included Isaac Jogues and the laymen Rene Goupil and Jean de la Lande. The second group, who died in Canada, included Jean de Brebeuf, Antoine Daniel, GabrielLalement, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel.
These men were aware of the dangers involved and of the fate of captives. Some of them were captured and escaped, but returned, persisting in their efforts to preach the Gospel to the Indigenous peoples.
Accounts of the martyrdom of Brebeuf and Lalemant survive today in the Jesuit Relations. At Auriesville, NY, and at Midland, ON, the shrines erected to the memory of the martyrs attract thousands of pilgrims annually.