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Home Canadian Jesuit art sale will finance Martyrs’ Shrine upgrade

Jesuit art sale will finance Martyrs’ Shrine upgrade

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Transformation of sanctum allows further opportunities for walking pilgrimages

By Michael Swan
TORONTO (CCN)
 
 
Photo caption: It won’t be the same old Martyrs’ Shrine when it opens to visitors on May 6. The 91-year-old shrine has undergone some changes, with $125,000 in upgrades planned for this year. Here, a statue of St. Isaac Jogues is in front of the shrine's church. (Michael Swan)
 
Mystics, missionaries and martyrs helped found the Church in Canada, and as the nation marks its 150th birthday, their lives of faith, their dreams, their failures and successes set the template for who we are meant to be.
Which is why a summer pilgrimage to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., can be more than a pleasant Sunday outing.
 
When the 91-year-old shrine reopens May 6, pilgrims are in for much more than a repeat of past years. St. Joseph’s Church has been restored, with its old high altar back in its central position. Relics of the martyrs will be displayed for adoration at a new side altar. A new chapel dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola is in the basement and beside it a new meeting room outfitted for audio-visual presentations about the lives of the Canadian Martyrs.
 
In part, the changes are being financed by the sale of 21 Harmonia paintings by Canadian master William Kreek. Originally commissioned by the Jesuits to aid the educational program at the shrine, the illustrations of the life and mission of St. Jean de Brebeuf and his companions each measure about 23 x 30 cm. The collection is expected to fetch between $80,000 and $120,000 at a Waddington’s auction June 19.
 
The decision to sell the paintings didn’t come easy, but in the end the Jesuits had to ask themselves what would serve their mission best.
 
“The paintings, in and of themselves, are not directly linked to our mandate,” said Martyrs’ Shrine director Fr. Michael Knox. “We are not an art gallery.”
The Jesuits will retain high-quality digital reproductions of the paintings and the right to use them in programming at the shrine.
 
The $125,000 in capital upgrades planned for this year are just the start.
On July 21, native and Jesuit Canadian paddlers will embark from Martyrs’ Shrine on an 850-km canoe trip to the Kahnawake First Nation near Montreal. This 32-day journey is part of the Canadian Jesuit response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 “calls to action.”
 
By fall, a new, permanent, year-round residence for the Jesuits will be constructed at the shrine, completing a transformation from a part-time, summer-season ministry to a full-time Jesuit presence with a summer season dedicated to the pilgrim experience and a winter season filled with high school retreats, parish ministry in the Midland-Penetanguishene area and special events for the Christmas and Lent liturgical seasons.
 
The transformation of Martyrs’ Shrine will also extend to new opportunities for walking pilgrimages. In partnership with Georgian Bay Trails, this summer a new 89-km walking trail will be marked out between Barrie and the shrine and connect with the Trans Canada Trial in time for the 2018 season.
Knox has a clear and succinct formula that defines the Jesuit mission at the shrine.
 
“This is about walking with St. Jean de Brébeuf and the companions into a relationship with Christ. The holiness of this place is in who was here and what happened,” he said.
 
Knox would like pilgrims to the Martyrs’ Shrine to be able to dive as deeply into the history of the place as they can. He spent years at Oxford University completing his doctorate in the life, culture, politics and spirituality of the early Jesuit missions in Canada. Over nine months he read the 5,978 pages of the Jesuit Relations in their original 16th-century French three times.
 
He came away with a conviction that there’s more to the martyrs than their martyrdom.
 
“It’s crucial to remember that the holiness of the martyrs is rooted in a life of faith,” he said. “That moment of choice these individuals faced – to embrace Jesus in a moment of death – came from a life of faith.”

 

 

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