The American Martyrs

                                  Isaac Jogues                                      Anthony Daniel
                              John DeBrebeuf                                     Noel Chabanel
                              Gabriel Lalemant                                     Rene Goupil
                              Charles Garnier                                     John LaLande

The American Martyrs consists of a group of six Jesuit Priests and two lay brothers who labored as missionaries in the vast region of North America; some came as far as Sault Ste. Marie in about the year 1620.  During their efforts to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and extend the kingdom of God in the New World, they sanctified our land with their lives.  All eight of the North American Martyrs were canonized by Pius XI on June 29, 1930.  As a parish, we are privileged to carry the distinction of being the first church in the West and the second parish in the world to be called The Church of the American Martyrs.

American Martyrs History

The history of American Martyrs Church extends back to March 12, 1926 when the late Most Rev. Bishop Paul J. Nausbaum appointed Fr. Erasmus Dooley as pastor to the growing area of Kingsford where the recently erected Ford Plant was drawing in workers.  Arrangements were made to offer Sunday Mass in the Garden Village School Gymnasium.  On October 1, 1926 Fr. Dooley was transferred to St. Mary’s in Norway and any hope of a separate parish in Kingsford was abandoned for 11 years.  On November 21, 1937 Fr. Seifert, pastor of the old St. Mary’s in Iron Mountain, called a meeting of the Catholic families living here for the purpose of organizing this group into a parish.  This meeting was held in the Old Capitol Theatre and nearly four hundred families were represented.  After receiving the necessary permission from His Excellency, The Most Rev. Joseph C. Plagens, it was decided to place the new parish under the patronage of the recently canonized Saints of North America – The American Martyrs.  Arrangements were made to rent the Capitol Theatre (corner of Breen and Roseland) as a temporary Church and the first service was held there on December 25, 1937.

The story of how our current parish structure came to be is an inspiring one, providing the legacy that throughout the years has helped to illustrate the faith and dedication that defines the Priests and parishioners of the Church of the American Martyrs.  On August 26, 1939, Fr. John G. Hughes was named the first resident pastor.  The parish continued to grow and become very active, and it was immediately apparent that a more permanent structure was required.  Without the zeal and the uniting efforts of the first board of trustees, the newly established parish would never have been completed in the record-breaking time of four months and 15 days.

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms

In honor of the six dedicated French priests and two lay brothers who gave their lives as Martyrs on the North American Continent for our Lord, a Coat of Arms, symbolic of the history of the eight American Martyrs, has been established as an ecclesiastic shield for “The Church of the American Martyrs” in Kingsford, Michigan symbolically representing historic facts concerning these Martyrs.

With a heraldic shape, representing an Indian tepee surmounted by a cross, their work and martyrdom for and by the North American Indians is exemplified through a pine tree in the form of rising fires, enshrining within the fire tree eight crowns as a symbol of their heavenly reward, exemplifying their suffering for Christ.

To the left of the tree, a tomahawk and an arrow, together with the fire, are symbolic of how they gave their lives for the Gospel.

To the right of the tree, amidst the rising flames, a closed book representing the Holy Scriptures is inscribed with a heraldic concept for the cross Fleuree, also representing the four Gospels of Christ and the French ancestry of the Martyrs.

Under the leadership of St. Isaac Joques, the remaining seven Saints, all of whom were canonized in 1930, are:  SS John DeBrebeuf, Anthony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel, Rene Goupil, and John Lelande.  The Feast Day of the American Martyrs is October 19.