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Editor's Desk: Busy Time in Richmond
By Michael F. Flach Herald Editor (From the issue of 11/7/02)

Our neighbors to the south have had a busy couple of months. Richmond Diocesan officials are promoting two sainthood causes. One involves Frank Parater, a former seminarian who died in 1920 while studying in Rome. The other cause involves a group of Spanish Jesuits who were martyred in 1571 near Tidewater.

Now comes news that Richmond officials have petitioned Rome to split the diocese. The Norfolk/Virginia Beach area would become Virginia’s third diocese (see story on page one). It would be the second time the Richmond Diocese has been split in the last 30 years. Arlington was established as a separate diocese in 1974.

In the case of the Jesuit martyrs, Father Russell E. Smith, who was appointed postulator of the cause by Richmond Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, announced recently that the Holy Card for the Spanish Jesuits is now available through his office. Father Smith, who also serves as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Quinton and as a judge in the diocesan Tribunal, said Richmond’s Office of Hispanic Ministry has translated the text into Spanish and is waiting for some contributions to print a large number in that language. His office also is researching Web site possibilities so that those outside the Richmond area can access information concerning the sainthood cause of the Jesuits.

Two of the eight men killed in 1571 by American Indians were Jesuit priests — Fathers Juan Bautista de Segura, Jesuit vice provincial of Havana, Cuba, and Luis de Quiros, former head of the Jesuit college among the Moors in Spain. Three were Jesuit brothers and three were novices in the society.

Father Smith said the Jesuits arrived in what is now Virginia in September 1570 — 37 years before the English settled at Jamestown. The missionaries settled near an Indian village near Yorktown at a time when the mid-Atlantic region was enduring a long period of famine. "The food they brought with them was in short supply," Father Smith said. "Immediately there was a dependence on the Indians for food."

The Jesuits were accompanied by an Indian guide, Don Luis, who was originally from the Tidewater area but had been taken to Spain by an earlier expedition. A young Spanish boy, Alonso Olmos, called Aloncito, also accompanied the priests to serve Mass. The Indian guide abandoned the Jesuits after a few days. On Feb. 4, 1571, Father Segura sent the other priest and two novices to plead with Luis to return. The three missionaries were killed when they arrived at the Indian camp. Luis arrived at St. Mary's Mission five days later and killed the remaining Jesuits.

Bishop Sullivan has designated St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in New Kent County, the site of the Shrine of the Jesuit Martyrs. New research lends credence to the opinion that St. Mary’s Mission may have been in the village of Axacam on the New Kent side of Diascund Creek near its confluence with the Chickahominy River. Mass will be celebrated there on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2003, at 5 p.m. to pray for the success of the cause.

The Holy Card contains the prayer for the Beatification of the Spanish Jesuit Martyrs of Virginia. To order copies of the card or to report any miracle or favor, contact the Office of the Postulator at 804/355-9155 or write to 811 Cathedral Place, Richmond, Va. 23220-4801. — M.F.F.

Copyright ?2002 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

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