Walking Among the Saints at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine at Auriesville

Monday, August 23, 2021

Located in the hamlet of Auriesville in Fultonville, NY, the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is a place of peace and renewal that the Auriesville saints procured centuries ago.  Once the 17th century Mohawk village of Ossernenon, the site is now a Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to three Jesuit missionaries who were martyred there, Father Isaac Jogues, two lay Jesuits, René Goupil and John Lalande and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.

Isaac Jogues, (1607–1646) was a French missionary and martyr who traveled and worked among the Iroquois, Huron, and other Native populations in North America. He was the first European to name Lake George, calling it Lac du Saint Sacrement (Lake of the Blessed Sacrament). In 1646, Jogues was martyred by the Mohawk at their village of Ossernenon. He and John Lalande were captured, tortured, hit with tomahawks and beheaded, their bodies dragged into the Mohawk river. (Wikipedia) 

While traveling by canoe between the missions in Canada, Father Jogues, René Goupil, and another lay Frenchman, Guillaume Coûture, were captured in August of 1642 in an Iroquois raid on the St. Lawrence River. They were brought to Osserenon, survived gruesome torture and were enslaved. After the death of Goupil on September 29th that same year, Father Jogues remained a slave and infrequently saw Coûture who was kept at another village. Jogues performed menial tasks and endured hard labor, starvation and exposure especially during the winter hunts where he served as the ‘beast of burden’ to his captors. Whenever he could break free, he found a quiet place, stripped the bark off a tree in the shape of a cross, and knelt and prayed. Pilgrims see the crosses on the trees here on this holy ground, placed in memory of his devotion. The land that comprises the Auriesville Shrine is between 400-500 acres.  As you walk the grounds of Auriesville you will notice a wooden cross on almost every tree as well as on every pillar inside the coliseum and in numerous locations on the altar.

Kateri was born in 1656 on the very ground where the three martyrs of Auriesville lost their lives. Named Ioragode at birth (meaning sunshine), she was the daughter of a Catholic Algonquin woman who had likely been captured in Canada and brought to Ossernenon. When Kateri was four years old, smallpox swept the village. Her parents and brother were among the casualties, and Kateri was badly scarred and nearly blinded by the disease. To reflect her poor eyesight, Kateri was renamed Tekakwitha, meaning “she who gropes,” “who bumps into things,” or “who puts things in order.” She was baptized in 1676 at age 20, and given the name Catherine, which became Kateri. Her insistence on celibacy rather than marriage created animosity among her tribesman. She endured social and emotional persecution for her convictions and for her love of Jesus and the cross, until her life was threatened. She escaped to a native Christian settlement near Montreal. She spent her remaining years in prayer, penance, harsh mortifications, and charitable works. After suffering fevers and abdominal pain, she died at age 24 on Wednesday of Holy Week 1680. The facial scarring from the smallpox disappeared upon her death. Apparitions of her were soon reported, as were answered prayers and healings through her intercession.  Kateri was beatified in 1980, and in 2012 was canonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha as the first Native American saint from the United States.

In 1884 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.

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.

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 for an additional 3500.

The Shrine continues to be the place of pilgrimages of peace and renewal that the Auriesville saints procured centuries ago.

It is said that the reason the Auriesville Shrine is so special is because there are more saints there than anywhere and perhaps that is true. Whatever it is, there is something unable to be defined or described about what you experience on those grounds.  Attending a mass here is truly a divine experience. You'll want to visit again and again, regardless of your religious affiliation.

Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine grounds are open daily from 9 am to 6 pm from mid-April through October 19th. Our Lady of Martyrs gift shop can be reached at 518-853-3939 to check current hours and days of operation.  Weekly masses are open to the public - Saturday 11:00am and Sunday 3:00 pm until mid-October.  Check the calendar for special times and events.


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