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
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
"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."