Friday, October 18, 2013

Archaeological dig reveals Franciscan mission on Georgia barrier island

From Catholic News Service:

"For Bishop Hartmayer, the trip had a twofold purpose. He wanted to see the mission site where fellow Franciscans first brought Christianity to the New World. As bishop of Savannah, he is now in charge of advancing the sainthood cause of the Georgia martyrs, five Spanish friars who were murdered by American Indians in 1597. Two of them met their deaths on St. Catherines, two near present-day Darien and a fifth on St. Simons Island.

In March 2007, Conventual Franciscan Father Conrad Harkins, then vice postulator of the martyrs' cause, took 500 pages of documents supporting the case for their canonization to the Vatican.

Thomas, who has spent more than 40 years excavating in the Southwest and Southeast, said the more he studies the missions, the more he becomes fascinated by the contrast between the missions in the Southwest and those in the Southeast. He has come to think of the Franciscan missionaries at St. Catherines as 16th-century "Peace Corps members."

"Basically there was an alliance between the church and the Indians that preserved the Indian culture," he said. Instead of forcing religion on the American Indians, the Franciscans brokered an agreement with them that kept the Indians' way of life while incorporating the teachings of Christianity.

"There is no way that two barefoot friars could have stood up to 300 armed warriors," had the Franciscans chosen a confrontational approach, Thomas told the Southern Cross, Savannah's diocesan newspaper.

The narrative about the killing of the priests, first written in 1619, has maintained that the friars were slain because they protested the fact that an Indian leader wanted to take more than one wife.

Thomas believes there was more to the story and that the five Franciscans were victims of a conflict between warring Indian factions fighting for power."

No comments: