Bishop William A. Wack, CSC, of Pensacola-Tallahassee, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and a ceremony to mark the closing of the diocesan phase for the Beatification of Antonio Inija and Companions. Approximately 650 participants attended the outdoor Mass, which was held at the future Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Martyrs site in Tallahassee, Fla.
Joining Bishop Wack were Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of St. Augustine, Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg and Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker, S.T.D., of Birmingham, Ala.
Also concelebrating the Mass were Msgr. Ramon Polcari, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana, Father Alberto Rodriguez from Medina de Rioseco, Spain, along with priests and deacons from Florida and across the country. At the Mass’s conclusion, the Tribunal presented Bishop Wack with their findings and the research of the Historical Commission, which will be delivered to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
“After centuries (literally) of waiting and preparing for this moment, we are finally ready to close the diocesan phase for the Beatification Cause of Antonio Inija and Companions – Martyrs of La Florida. The witness of these clerics, laymen, women and children inspires and assists us today in the lands where they lived and died. If God wills that they are beatified, the whole world will come to know them and will benefit from their intercession and example,” said Bishop Wack.
Before Mass, guests listened to music under the direction of Colleen Nixon, joined by William Buchholtz Pukinaage Mukwa of the Algonquians.
The opening processional included an Honor Guard of the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Representatives of the Beatification Process included the petitioner, Historical Commission, vice postulators and representatives for the Martyrs: the 58 martyrs who were killed during the initial missionary outreach to La Florida in the mid-16th century, following the expansion of the missions in the 17th century and during the collapse of the missions around the beginning of the 18th century. They include:
- Missionaries from the Dominican, Jesuit, Franciscan, and St. John of God orders
- Indigenous people from the Apalachee, Aypaja, Guale, and Timucua tribes
- Individuals from Spain and of Spanish descent from Cuba and Florida
- Laymen, women, and children (including one unborn)
- Chiefs and governors; altar boys and sacristans
The Mass included a meditation featuring a Prayer to Our Lady After Communion written by Gregorio Movilla in 1635 and translated by Aggie Johnson, Timothy J. Johnson, Ph.D. and Akemi Brisa Martinez Gutarra. The prayer was sung by a choir composed of Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother and Knights Ensemble from Assumption School in Jacksonville.
“This is truly a historic moment in time. The canonization process is exceptionally detailed and complicated, and this event brings us one step closer to honoring, celebrating and memorializing those who literally gave their lives for the perpetuation of their faith and Christian beliefs,” shared Chris Stavres, president of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions Board.
On Oct. 12, 2015, the beatification cause was officially opened, allowing the appointed Historical Commission to formally begin extensive research on numerous individuals from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries who are reported to have died for the faith in the land once known as La Florida. These investigations took members of the Historical Commission to archives in Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana, as well as Cuba, Mexico, Spain, London and Rome. In accordance with the church’s prudent requirements, the Historical Commission rigorously examined each report of martyrdom.
About The Martyrs of La Florida Missions
The Martyrs of La Florida Missions serves as the Petitioner in the Beatification process. The Martyrs of La Florida Missions organization is a 501(c)(3) ministry, included in the Official Catholic Directory, with a mission to honor and promote devotion to the martyrs by advocating for their beatification, establishing a shrine, and engaging regional, national, and international communities for recognition. For more information on the Martyrs of La Florida Missions, please visit https://www.martyrsoflafloridamissions.org/.