400th Anniversary of Jesuits in Canada
On May 22, 1611, Jesuit Fathers Ennemond Massé and Pierre Biard landed on the shores of present-day Nova Scotia. They were sent by the queen of France to minister to the colony of Port Royal, which had been founded in 1604 by Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain.
The two Jesuit fathers quickly learned that many Port Royal colonists were Calvinists, and therefore opposed the presence and work of these priests. In 1613 Fathers Massé and Biard founded a new, Catholic colony, St-Sauveur, across the Bay of Fundy.
This new colony was attacked and destroyed that same year by English colonists from Virginia. The two Jesuit fathers were captured, expelled from New France, and eventually made their way to England and from there to France.
Father Biard spent the rest of his life in France, but Fr. Massé returned to New France, this time to Québec, in 1625.
Fr. Massé was accompanied by four other Jesuits, including Father Charles Lalemant and Jean de Brébeuf, the great missionary of the Huron nation.
Father Brébeuf spent one winter near Quebec, learning a native language by following some Algonquins in their winter hunting travels. He experienced living in tents, with constant smoke and constant fatigue, as they searched the forest for game.
The next summer, 1626, Father Brébeuf set out from Québec with a party of Hurons for the journey to their land, near present-day Midland, Ontario – 800 kilometres by canoe, 35 or 40 portages, travelling in silence because he had not yet learned their language...
The story of the heroic Jesuit mission to the Hurons, 1626-1650, and the events that led to the death of the eight Canadian Martyrs, may be found at www.martyrs-shrine.com
May the faith, zeal and generosity of these first Canadian Jesuits animate our community today!