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A BlackRobe Shrine in Canandaigua

November 8th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Soon after I began attending St. Mary Canandaigua, a gentleman from that Church told me about a “Jesuit martyr shrine” just a bit northwest of the city.  Fall 2013 069 If you head north on Route 332 (Rochester Road) and turn left at North Street (Route 30, North Bloomfield Rd.), you will be just a little less than five miles from the roadside monument dedicated to those early martyrs.  It is located on the north side of  the road, just east of Wheeler Station Road, but it is very easy to miss.

I visited when I first heard about it, spoke with a man across the street who tries to maintain it, and was warned about the heavy truck traffic which comes very quickly over the hill.  Afterward, curiosity piqued, I did some small amount of research, discovering the importance of the martyrs memorialized on the site.

This year, on October 19th, the Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions,  and Martyrs, I revisited the stone marker and plaques.  At the suggestion of one of our own dedicated “Blackrobes” (a generic word for priests), here’s a bit of history about this unassuming site.

Dedication Local MartyrsThe first plaque  (click to enlarge) reads 1656 Chapel of St. Michael,  Village of Gandougarae.  It  mentions “Joseph Chauminot First Missionary.”

There is a journal entitled:  “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents; Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610-1791” in which Volume XLII deals with what then was “Lower Canada” and the Iroquois.  Paragraph XC of this volume (The Relation of 1655-56) was written by Jean de Quen,  at the Onondaga mission which had been just recently begun by the Jesuits, and described in  Father Dablon’s journal.  With Chauminot, he had begun the mission the preceding autumn (1655).

On this same plaque is mentioned Saint “DeBrouf”  which is believed simply to be a variant of the saint, whose Memorial is celebrated on October 19th as “John de Brebeuf.”  Various spellings are probably due to translation from the French.

Fr. Garnier is also mentioned in the Jesuit Journal and on the plaque.  At the bottom of this same plaque, there is mention of Fr. Dougherty who was pastor of St. Mary Canandiagua and participated in the laying of this plaque, memorializing the martyrs.

The full text of “Historical Sketches of Western New York” by Vandeoboof (1907) states:  “… in the days of Champlain and Jacques Cartier — two French Jesuit fathers, Brebauf and Chauminot, crossed Lake Ontario and came upon the Niagara River near Lewiston.  With the proselyting zeal so characteristic of their faith, they came as the bearers of good tidings to the Neuter Nation and surrounding tribes. The fathers found the stoics of the woods indifferent to their teachings, but though unable to convert the heathen of the western world they were not converted by them.”

Excerpts from the Jesuit Journal:

1. “Cayuga and Oneida deputies arrive, and take part in the ratification of peace. Chaumonot [sic], following the custom of the country, makes numerous presents of wampum and beaver-skins to accompany his speeches; and having thus secured the good will of his savage hearers, preaches to them the Christian faith, to which they listen attentively. His eloquence and tact charm them; and the chief Cayuga deputy adopts him as a brother.”

2. “The Fathers behold and describe many superstitious rites,—among these, some practiced in obedience to dreams, which even involve the sacrifice of human life; also the Ononhouaroia, or “festival of fools,” as Chaumonot calls it. One of the men participating therein, the host of the Fathers, sets his own cabin on fire; but Chaumonot arrives in time  to put out the flames, and pacifies the frenzied man.”

3.  “They are all going to join Father Joseph Chaumonot [sic], who remained in the Iroquois Country. … The Fathers ask for Gospel Laborers, and the aid of prayers from all who desire the salvation of those Tribes.  As the expense of maintaining such an enterprise is very great, if those who profess to contribute toward the Conversion of the Savages would support this Mission, they would render a great service to God.  Within a recent period, there have been Baptized, in different places, despite the disturbances and hindrances of war, more than four hundred and fifty Savages, children and adults. If the Preachers of the Gospel can be maintained in those Regions—which I would willingly call the Land of Martyrs—many more will be Baptized.”

The Second Plaque  “Gandougarae”

The second plaque recounts, quoting Fr. Chauminot, that upon reaching the Hurons in 1656, he saidFall 2013 070: “Myself I give as a guarantee of the truth I preach,” foreshadowing his eventual martyr’s death.  There is a smooth stone on which to kneel for those inclined to stay a bit.

I found myself on October 19th at St. Mary’s in Canandaigua contemplating how much was given here that we might have a Catholic Church to attend, and how great the gap seems sometimes between their sacrifice and our gratitude.  Also, I thought about the contrast between the sufferings of the early priests, and today’s expectations.

I would like to see a revival of intercession to the martyr priests for the calling and sustaining of the faithful work of today’s priests, and to meet the true needs of the laity, even when we sometimes are not so receptive.

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5 Responses to “A BlackRobe Shrine in Canandaigua”

  1. avatar Ron says:

    I didn’t know about this little shrine. Thanks for pointing it out. I wonder how many other little-known shrines there are around the diocese?

  2. avatar raymondfrice says:

    There is a bronze plaque in front of Mercy Mother House which commemorates the first Mass said in what is now Monroe County. There is a map of the sites at St Mary’s Chuerch, Canandaigua. This is a link to where Father Chaumonot is buried.wikipedia.org/wiki/L’Ancienne-Lorette

    This is a fine and uplifting article about our diocese!

  3. avatar JLo says:

    Thank you for your latest gift, Diane!
    Do you have an actual address, perhaps for the man who maintains it? I’m thinking a GPS could then readily find the site. If not, playing seeker will add to the adventure, I’m sure.
    God bless you for all you do and share!
    +JMJ

  4. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thanks, JLo,

    Unfortunately I don’t have the GPS coordinates, and it has been about 5 years since my conversation with the man across the street. I am not even sure if he lives there anymore, as I saw no activity at the house on my last visit. There is a slight upward grassy walk heading north from the shrine site, and he had told me that was the original Gandougare village, where artifacts had been found. However, there may be some problem with access now; I’m not sure.

    As you can see from the pictures of my last visit, it hasn’t been mowed in a while and I didn’t see the little blue vigil light he had burning previously. It is in need of a bit of sprucing up. For the GPS I would suggest just map-questing the intersection of Wheeler Station Rd. and North Bloomfiled (Rte. 30). The shrine is just a few hundred feet at most to the east of that intersection, and it would then be on your left. It is not a Canandaigua address; it is within East Bloomfield. Hope this helps. Diane

  5. avatar mike_b says:

    I found it here.
    +42° 54′ 45.96″, -77° 22′ 31.65″
    Copy and paste into google maps or something like that.


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