Pray for the Martyrs

Published on Aug 22nd, 2012 by Austin Keith | 0
Bishop Estévez Honors St. Augustine’s First Martyr
Franciscan Friar Agustin Ponce de Leon will be remembered at a Memorial Mass on Sept. 3, 307 years after he died defending Guale Indian converts to Catholicism.
Bishop Felipe J. Estévez will celebrate an 11 a.m. Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. Father Tom Willis, pastor, will be homilist. Agustin’s birth certificate from the diocesan archives will be displayed at the Mass. The Mass is open to the public.
Several state and local dignitaries have been invited to the Memorial Mass, including the present-day descendants of Fay Agustin’s brother’s family, noted historians, the Florida Catholic Bishops and members of the Federal 450th Commission. 
Agustin, born in 1669 in St. Augustine, died fighting Creek Indians in 1705 in a marsh north of the city within the present-day Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Creeks captured the Guales from the Mission Nombre de Dios Chiquito outside the city.
Bishop Estévez learned of Agustin from representatives of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions. Their shrine will be where the Apalache Mission of San Pablo y San Paulo and its inhabitants were destroyed by Carolina Governor James Moore in the 1704 massacre in Tallahassee.
“Our people do not know the stories of our ‘martyrs’ especially from the 16th and 17th centuries,” Bishop Estévez said. “I dream that someday at the Mission Nombre de Dios we will have displays of their stories, which took place in the territory of our diocese… It would be an omission for us to forget them. These leaders of the first evangelization can inspire us for our mission today.”
La Florida Shrine spokeswoman Lynn Mangan said the martyrs “are each unique, beloved gifts of God to us. One of the things that make Fray Agustin special is that he very likely may be the first priest born here and martyred here. …We are so very thankful that Bishop Estévez is taking this step to help ensure they will never more be forgotten.”
For more information about the Florida Martyrs [click here] for an article that appeared in the March/April 2012 edition of the St. Augustine Catholic magazine.