The pioneers of faith labored zealously in North Americans during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and some of them shed their blood for the one true faith.
Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was a Franciscan priest. In 1749 he and Father Francisco Palou were appointed missionaries to America.
Father Serra reached Mexico City on Jan. 1, 1750. He served the native people with great zeal and devotion. He travelled a great deal, established nine California missions, and founded farms, rancherias, and schools.
Like St. Paul, Father Serra suffered many hardships during his missionary endeavors: hunger, stormy seas, a near shipwreck, threats, and violent attacks from enemies, but he always lived out his personal motto: “Always forward.”
It was estimated that Father Serra baptized more than 6,000 natives and confirmed more than 5,000. He also travelled about 4,300 miles on foot or by pack animal.
In mid-August 1784, Father Serra asked Father Palou to help him in dying. Father Palou rushed to Serra’s side, and for 10 days the two men prayed together. On Aug. 28 Father Junipero Serra died surrounded by his spiritual children—-the native people.
Sts. Isaac Jogues and companions were North American martyrs. They are the secondary patrons of Canada (St. Joseph is the principle patron).
The eight Jesuit martyrs suffered between the year 1642 and 1649. St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil were martyred by the Iroquois near Auriesville, New York. Sts. Jean de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalement, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garnier and Noel Chabanel suffered in Huron Territory near Georgian Bay.
The life of the missionaries was very hard, and the work of evangelization was not easy. St. Gabriel Lalement wrote, “We have sometimes wondered whether we could hope for the conversion of this country without the shedding of blood.” Sts. John Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues prayed for the grace of martyrdom.
There was enmity between the native tribes—the Hurons and the Iroquois. The Iroquois attacked the Hurons and killed the missionaries with great cruelty. St. Rene Goupil was the first to suffer martyrdom.
St. Isaac Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and his hands were mutilated. After his escape a Calvinist knelt at his feet and kissed the mangled hands exclaiming, “Martyr of Jesus Christ!” Pope Urban VIII granted Isaac Jogues special permission to celebrate Mass with mutilated fingers. The Pope said, “It would be unjust that a martyr for Christ should not drink the blood of Christ”.
St. Isaac Jogues eventually suffered martyrdom at Ossernenon in 1646. Ten years later this place became the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
The other martyrs suffered in 1648 and 1649. They strived to serve the spiritual needs of the Hurons right to the end. A short time after their death, many native tribes (even their executioners) were converted.
Lily of the Mohawks
Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) lost her parents and brother in a smallpox epidemic. Her face was permanently disfigured and her eyes left so pained by strong light that she would always shade her with a blanket.
Kateri was raised by an uncle. She resisted several marriages proposals and lived a chaste life. She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676.
Being the only Christian in her lodge, Kateri was persecuted by her own people for her faith. Eventually she fled to a Christian mission near Montreal.
A favorite question of Kateri was, “Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God that I may do it?” Kateri spent long hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament and practiced extreme mortifications.
With a strong love for Christ, her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”
聖宜善不懼危險，稍後重返傳教區，終在1646年死在依魯克族人利斧之下。聖宜善致命之處 —— 奧息能隴 —— 是後來北美洲第一位土著聖人聖嘉德利出生地。