The North American Martyrs are a group of eight Jesuit missionaries who were martyred by the Iroquois between 1642 and 1649. The eight were canonized by Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) on June 21, 1930. Their feast day is October 19.
Saint Isaac Jogues (1607-1646)
A native of Orleans, France, Isaac Jogues came to the New World in 1636. For seven years, he worked among the Mohawk Indians and, although he made many converts, underwent horrible tortures. He nearly lost his life several times and the Iroquois mutilated his hands so badly he had to later receive special permission from the Pope to continue celebrating Mass (Catholic priests have to have at least a thumb and an index finger).
In 1643, Father Jogues miraculously escaped to France. Although he had the option to remain in Europe, he insisted on returning to the New World. Saint Isaac Jogues was martyred on October 18, 1646.
Father Jogues had been accompanied by two laymen: Saint Rene Goupil (1608-1642) and Saint Jean de Lalande (unknown-1646). Rene Goupil had begun his missionary work in a Catholic hospital in Canada. He later traveled to New York to help Father Jogues. After he was caught teaching an Indian child to make the Sign of the Cross, he was violently killed on September 29, 1642.
Jean de Lalande came to North America when Jogues returned after his escape. Although he and Father Jogues were on a peace mission, the Iroquois were not interested. Saint Jean de Lalande was martyred on the same day as Saint Isaac Jogues.
Saint Jean de Brebeuf (1593-1649)
Father Jean de Brebeuf was the leader of the first Jesuits who arrived in Canada. He was nicknamed “Echon” or “bear” because of his immense size. After spending months learning the customs and language of the Indians, Father Brebeuf began a mission to the Hurons. He had little success and was blamed every time a natural disaster, such as an epidemic or crop failure, took place. It took nearly twenty-five years for his mission to become firmly established.
When Father Brebeuf and his companions began siding with the Hurons against the Iroquois, the latter swore to destroy every Blackrobe that could be found.
On March 15, 1649, Saint Jean de Brebeuf was literally torn to pieces by the Iroquois. He was martyred at the same time as his companion, Father Gabriel Lalemant (1610-1649). Saint Gabriel Lalemant has since been declared the patron saint of Canada.
Father Charles Garnier (1606-1649) was also a follower of Jean de Brebeuf. After his leader’s death, he knew his own was not far off. He was tomahawked on December 17, 1649.
On July 4, 1648, Father Antoine Daniel (1601-1648) was killed by the Iroquois while he was saying Mass.
On December 8, 1649, Father Noel Chabanel (1613-1649) was murdered by a Huron who had been a Christian but later apostatized.
Source: Carroll, Anne W. “Christ and the Americas”