The Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, is my most recent stop on my Marian Pilgrimage across the United States. The shrine is built on the site of the Mohawk village of Ossernenon and marks the place of martyrdom of three of the eight North American Martyrs: Father Isaac Jogues and his two lay companions, Rene Goupil and John LaLande. They were martyred in the 1640s, along with five Jesuit priests martyred in Canada. It’s also believed to be the 1656 birthplace of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.
I wrote about the shrine and my experiences there in a post at National Catholic Register. You can read the full post here.
There’s so much to tell about this awe-inspiring place, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about the Saints of Auriesville Museum because it is truly amazing.
It wouldn’t be so if not for the museum’s Director, Beth Lynch. Newly reverted to the Catholic faith, Beth discovered the Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs in Spring of 2008. At that time, there were two museums on the property – the Kateri Museum and the Martyrs Museum. Through a friend, she discovered that there was a part-time opening at the Martyrs Museum. Compelled by the story of the North American Martyrs, she jumped at the chance to work there even thought she already had a full-time job. In August 2008, a full-time position became available at the shrine and she eagerly accepted it.
Beth’s first order of business was to combine the two museums, sort through and organize their collections, and gather art and artifacts that had been relegated to storage over the years. Her late husband was a cowboy sketch artist and together they ran a small history museum in Arizona. The skills she learned there in exhibit design, matting, and framing came in handy in Auriesville.
She conducted copious research so that she could tell the complex story of the martyrs and then created excellent displays with captions and storyboards that brought their story to life. I assure you, she most certainly has succeeded in her goal!
In an artistic and engaging way, the museum relays the journeys of the early Jesuit missionaries to the area and outlines the mission, ministry, and eventual martyrdom of Fr. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil. and John LaLande. Showcases filled with artifacts make the stories a tangible reality. The other half of the space is [bctt tweet=”In an artistic and engaging way, the museum relays the journeys of the early Jesuit missionaries to the area and outlines the mission, ministry, and eventual martyrdom of Fr. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil. and John LaLande. ” username=”MargeFenelon”]dedicated to the Native Americans who once inhabited the region, particularly the Mohawk Indians from who Saint Kateri received her
heritage. In the same expert manner, the exhibits take the visitor back to another place and time very different from what we know now. There also is a viewing room for showings of documentaries on the North American Martyrs as well as Saint Kateri and the Mohawks.
Because of her expertise, Beth was interviewed by Fr. Mitch Pacwa for EWTN Live, +Fr. Andrew Apostoli for EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime, and +Fr. Benedict Groeschel for EWTN’s Sunday Night Live. Additionally, she appeared in two other EWTN documentaries: Footprints in the Wilderness Part IV and Kateri – All for Christ Part III.
But it’s not just her expertise that attracts others to her in regard to the North American Martyrs; it’s her passion for them.
“The Auriesville saints were passionately in love with Jesus Christ, and absolutely convicted of salvation through him, as is understood to the Catholic Church. As a revert to the faith, I have
been impassioned by the intensity of their love and conviction. Their witness to me has strengthened my faith and enriched my love for God. I want to pass that witness onto pilgrims who come here,” she told me.
Visitors have come from as far away as England, with ethnic pilgrimages coming from all over the continent such as Vietnamese, Chinese, French from Canada, and Syro-Malibar Rite pilgrims from India.They come, she explained, because the Saints of Auriesville Museum is unlike any other natural history museum.
“The Catholic element makes this museum different, specifically the sacrificial element that comes from demonstrating truth in love. The various venues in the museum are tied together by the relation to Catholic missionaries in the New World. The Catholic influence alter the course of history because of the great commission given to us by Christ to ‘go and make disciples of all nations,'” she added.
The grounds are open year round and the museum is open from late morning until late afternoon on most days. The museum is closed on Thursdays. Other days and times can be arranged for pre-scheduled pilgrimages.
For more information: http://www.auriesvilleshrine.com/
To view the documentaries:
EWTN Live with Fr Mitch Pacwa Sept 26, 2012
Sunday Night Prime with Fr Andrew Apostoli Oct 20, 2013
Sunday Night Live with Fr Benedict Groeschel Jan 2, 2011