A Renewed Mission at the Martyrs Shrine Supported by Faith-filled Generosity
February 9, 2017 — As the country’s national shrine, honouring the lives of its co-patrons, St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, the Martyrs’ Shrine for 90 years has been a place of spiritual renewal for millions of pilgrims. Walking alongside these faith-filled martyrs, pilgrims from 38 different cultural communities have sought a deeper union with Jesus Christ that brings them healing, reconciliation, hope, peace and, for the many new Canadians who visit, a deeper understanding of the roots of the Catholic faith in Canada. This past year, our journey with the martyrs has been blessed with both new initiatives and the extraordinary support of benefactors, which together have allowed us to fulfill our mission even more.
An exciting new synergy has emerged with the historic decision of Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, to formally establish a Jesuit community at Martyrs’ Shrine. Six Jesuit priests have taken up permanent residence, and the fruit of their full-time ministry is already greatly appreciated by many. Believing that community life lies at the centre of our apostolic life, the Fathers have together felt a renewed vigour in their traditional ministry of offering Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual conversation, and education, whilst also deciding to expand their outreach, offering winter retreat programmes to students, preaching Lenten missions in the Archdiocese of Toronto, providing pastoral support to local parishes, and spiritual direction.
In the recent Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, the Martyrs’ Shrine was also invited by Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, to erect a ‘Door of Mercy.’ Believing that the very grounds of the Shrine were sanctified by the blood of the martyrs spilt here, it was placed outdoors as a portal through which tens of thousands of pilgrims have now passed into the merciful arms of Christ. Carefully built by local craftsmen with regional stone and barn wood, and adorned with a vision of Mary, ‘Our Lady of Mercy’, painted by Ojibwa artist William Monague, this Holy Door will remain as a lasting testament to the many ways in which the lives of the martyrs continue to inspire both piety and creative generosity among a growing number of supporters.
This same spirit of faith-filled generosity has overflowed into the Shrine church itself, allowing us to proceed with a series of both restorative and renewing projects that will enhance the church. With a generous gift from an anonymous benefactor, the sanctuary of the church will be restored to its original form. When pilgrims return in the spring, they will see the high altar housing the Blessed Sacrament returned to the heart of the sanctuary. Moreover, the relics of saints Jean de Brébeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, and Charles Garnier once again given prominence in the east nave of the Shrine, allowing pilgrims a quiet space to pray with our martyrs. And, thanks to the generosity of those who attended our annual Tiawenk Fundraising Dinner, the Filion Centre located under the church, will be transformed into an adoration chapel that will also host each February students attending our new winter retreat programme entitled, “A Journey of Discovery with Christ.”
As we carry on the mission of St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, as we journey alongside pilgrims to Christ on these sacred lands, we give thanks to God for the sundry ways that he has inspired many to generously support our ministry of healing and evangelization. And more than this, we gratefully continue to pray for the intentions of our visitors, knowing that our merciful Lord Jesus is never far from the needs of anyone who calls upon his name.