The centuries-old canonization effort for the martyrs of La Florida was renewed ten years ago by a 78-acre parcel of land on the east side of Tallahassee.
Bishop Rene Gracida purchased land nearby this site in the early 1980’s to build a shrine in memory of the martyrs (as he also took steps to formally open the canonization). Interestingly, the group of individuals who were to continue Bishop Gracida’s effort began to do so without knowledge of Bishop Gracida’s project, and with almost no knowledge about the martyrs themselves. They stumbled on this martyrdom and mission history in an effort to understand the history of this land.
It is now set aside to be the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Martyrs (following the canonization of the martyrs, the shrine will be renamed, Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Martyrs of La Florida). A small group of lay Catholics secured the land with the bank, while others formed the board of the non-profit in hopes of purchasing the land and establishing the shrine. Bishop Ricard included the ministry in the Official Catholic Directory. It is now incorporated as the Martyrs of La Florida Missions. On August 22, 2012, Bishop Gregory Parkes blessed the land and the effort to remember and honor the martyrs.
On the site for the shrine, there is a mansion listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is sturdy and handsome but in need of restoration. Plans include restoring the building and through narrative painting, artifacts and documents, opening it to the public as the Museo de Francisco. Through this museum, pilgrims and visitors will learn the story of our all but forgotten martyrs.
The Martyrs of La Florida Missions organization have been offered a $250,000 matching grant to restore the mansion. We are praying for a match and are grateful for any and all help.
Plans also include a glorious chapel on the hill where now stands a cross. The chapel will be dedicated to St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Converted Indians. Recent documents reveal the special connection between native lead martyr Antonio, a carpenter, and St. Joseph. This Apalachee Chief Antonio wanted to be like St. Joseph, so that his people would be ‘one single holy family’.
On a beautiful afternoon on October 12, 2015 the land hosted the opening of the cause. There gathered four bishops, fifty priests and hundreds of lay people, exuberant that God’s day has come and that the faithful martyrs love and perseverance will be known across the land.