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Georgia Martyrs Special Edition

Originally Appeared in : 9819-9/13/18

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A Message from the Bishop 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Peace and all good things!

 

When I was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah in 2011, I was suddenly presented with a series of changes and surprises in my life. As a Franciscan Bishop, one of the most significant surprises was learning that the Diocese of Savannah had presented a formal beatification case to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints requesting Rome to recognize five Franciscan friars killed in Coastal Georgia in 1597 as martyrs of the faith. 

Click on the image above to read a PDF of the Southern Cross's Georgia Martyrs Special Edition Magazine. 

 

I read the official document presented to Rome which had been meticulously prepared by a team of Franciscan scholars and diocesan representatives throughout the decades, and found the lives of Friar Pedro de Corpa and his companion friars Blas, Miguel, Antonio, and Francisco to be quite remarkable. I learned about the string of missions founded by Spanish missionaries along the Atlantic coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in the late 1500s, and about the general friendly relations that existed between the missionaries and various indigenous peoples. 

 

Shortly after arriving to Savannah I visited the site of the Santa Catalina de Guale Mission, founded in the 1590s on the shores of today’s Saint Catherines Island approximately thirty miles south of Savannah. Dr. David Hurst Thomas, an archaeologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York who has dedicated much of his professional life to finding, researching, and preserving the history of the Mission, led the excursion. I celebrated Mass on a rustic altar where the mission had been, an area now marked by beautiful palm trees. Here countless Guale natives came to know Christ, and the remains of many of them still lie beneath the ground at the site. It was here where Friar Miguel and Friar Antonio were martyred in 1597 as they refused to believe that a war party was coming to kill them. It was a unique thrill for me to celebrate Mass on this holy site where friars also celebrated Mass centuries ago, and to stand on holy ground consecrated by the blood of martyrs.

 

Aware that I have inherited the fruits of the tireless efforts of many before me, including my predecessors Bishop Raymond Lessard and Bishop Kevin Boland, my desire is that this case move forward in Rome so that these fellow Franciscan friars will be recognized as martyrs and be declared blessed by the Church. I renew my commitment to this cause every time I consider the courage they displayed in leaving behind their home country of Spain to preach the Gospel in distant lands, and the steadfastness with which they preached the faith even when having to defend the sacramentality of marriage with their lives. The story of Friar Pedro de Corpa and Companions is timely and their beatification in the 21st century appropriate because these men defended the sacrament of marriage. They are signs of hope for us today when secular forces attempt to redefine the institution of marriage, making the friars a welcomed voice to all those who strive to live out the vocation of marriage. 

 

In 2015 I visited the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to inquire about the cause, and was directed to Father Giovangiuseppe Califano, OFM, the Postulator of the Cause of Friar Pedro de Corpa and Companions. Father Califano has guided us these past few years to move the case forward. Cooperation with the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province of New York continues since for many years this Province advanced the cause. At the direction of Father Califano, the Diocese of Savannah has taken steps to increase awareness and devotion to these five courageous friars who first preached the Catholic faith in our state. We have developed a variety of ways to tell the story of Friar Pedro de Corpa and Companions including a beautiful website, prayer cards, posters and other initiatives. In the near future we hope to have tangible signs at the various sites of the martyrdom of the friars along the coast of our diocese.

 

As a Franciscan Bishop, I especially feel determined to contribute to the public recognition by the Church of the price of discipleship in boldly preaching and witnessing the teachings of the Church. Friar Pedro de Corpa and Companions are our spiritual ancestors in South Georgia, a local church that is rich in diversity and history. May they pray for us and our intentions, and may their ultimate sacrifice in the name of Christ be officially recognized by the Church.

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

 

 

 

Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.

Bishop of Savannah

 

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