MIDLAND, ON (15 February 2023) – Martyrs' Shrine announces the scheduled departure of its current director and Jesuit Superior, Father Michael Knox later this year. The 2023 season will mark Fr. Michael's eighth and final year as head of Martyrs' Shrine as he prepares for new and exciting changes as he continues along his Jesuit formation training in tertianship.
Jesuit Tertianship is a time of renewal. As a Jesuit, Fr. Michael will revisit the foundational documents and history of the Society of Jesus. As he did as a novice, he will once again make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Known as the 'Long Retreat,' the tertian will pray in silence for 30 days, letting the Lord work on him. This is typically a nine-month program that includes spiritual training and apostolic ministry.
I write to you, in this, my last Director’s Message, with a spirit of heartfelt thanksgiving to God. This past late autumn, I was given my new mission, and I will be completing my time as director of Martyrs’ Shrine amidst this coming summer season.
My thanksgiving to God is for you, all of our pilgrims, Pilgrimage Leaders, numerous pastors, the local communities around Martyrs’ Shrine, the Jesuits who labour here, the members of our Board of Trustees, and our dedicated staff. For as I look back over the past seven years, I give thanks, for all that has been achieved by this remarkable body of people – with the help of our Lord and St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions.
Over the past seven years, almost half a million people have journeyed to Martyrs’ Shrine to celebrate our faith, come to know St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, learn of some of the earliest moments of Canada’s history, and deepen their relationship with God. Many of these pilgrims led to us by dedicated lay pilgrimage leaders and pastors. Moreover, and quite remarkably, to support their journey, the Jesuits here have offered over 25,000 hours of pastoral care and 18,000 hours in the confessional. They have said, amongst them, 4,704 scheduled masses in the Church of St. Joseph, offered, collectively, just under 300 retreats of varying kinds, some 60 parish missions in 4 different dioceses, and 14 on-site university courses. All of this whilst also providing regular pastoral support in seven different parish settings, four schools, and various health centres. All of this supported by a modest number of very gifted permanent and seasonal staff. For these I give thanks to God.
It is also thanks to you, and all whom support our mission, that amidst these labours, we were also able to care for the infrastructure of this sacred place. Our Church of St. Joseph had its sanctuary, windows, kneelers, and outdoor statuary restored. Its fire suppression system replaced, our relics given a sacred space, and a new chapel built for pilgrims underneath it. Our stonework throughout the property was restored. Our main washroom, office, and giftshop renovated, and our septic system under the process of expansion. All of our industrial vehicles have been replaced. Our onsite cottage and loft both remodelled, to house two families whose dedicated presence provide consistent on-call care and security. A residence for the permanent Jesuit community was built, and The Magis guesthouse inaugurated as a place of rest and renewal for mostly priests and religious. We have a new website. New vehicle and pedestrian signage were placed throughout the site and new maps and guide brochures produced. A new greenhouse provides our flowers and plants for the grounds, new sprinkler systems channel our aquafer water, over 100 new trees have been planted, and most of our gardens have transitioned to perennial plants. For these I give thanks to God.
Moreover, it was between the years of 2019 and 2021 that all Jesuits and staff, in many ways, felt most keenly the magnanimous gift of God’s loving care and your support. Never, in the history of Martyrs’ Shrine, had it been closed for a season, and we were obliged to stay closed for two. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jesuits continued to minister with regular Mass on-line, manning a spiritual hotline, and receiving thousands of prayer requests, all the while a skeleton staff, and several volunteers, cared for the site and its administration. Closed to the public, the hearts of pilgrims opened up to us with letters of support, prayer, and generous gifts that kept us going. For these I give thanks to God.
Most importantly, I give thanks for the privilege of witnessing so many people share in Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, seek blessing in their lives, experience moments of profound healing in body and soul, celebrate their culture, journey in prayer with our martyrs, and deepen in faith – all here in a space where, one pilgrim leader said to me, they feel ‘welcome, safe, and encouraged to praise Jesus Christ’.
As I prepare for my next mission, the Society of Jesus prepares to send a new director. As we come to know who this is, we will share the happy news with you. In the meantime, once again, I thank you all for the privilege it has been to share in your prayers and pilgrimage at Martyrs’ Shrine. May the Lord bless you all."
-Fr. Michael Knox, SJ
Director, Martyrs' Shrine
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Martyrs’ Shrine, Canada’s early church, is a national holy and historic space honouring the lives of the Canadian Martyrs. The Shrine celebrates a nearly 400-year-old story of love and discovery that inspired and influenced the formation of Canada as we know it today. The Shrine is a ministry of the Jesuits of Canada. This ‘house of prayer, home of peace’ honours the Jesuit missionaries and their companions who lived, worked, and died here in the lands of the Wendat (Huron) back in the seventeenth century. Martyrs’ Shrine is located just outside of Midland, Ontario, in the Heart of Georgian Bay. Typically, more than 100,000 visitors from around the world visit the Shrine for prayer, healing and fellowship each year.