Founded in 1919 as an association of members of the three branches of the Friars Minor, the Franciscan Educational Conference each year until the early 1970's congregated friars from all sections of the United States to discuss selected topics touching on their spiritual and professional life.
The determined and organized effort to promote the canonization of the Five Martyrs of Georgia was largely the result of the meeting of the Conference which was held in Santa Barbara, California, in 1936. The theme of that meeting, the eighteenth since the establishment of the Conference, was "Franciscan History of North America."4
The paper titled "Spanish Franciscans in the Southeast" was prepared and delivered by Fr. Diomede Pohlkamp, O.F.M. He began his exposition by quoting the highly respected nonCatholic historian of the California missions, Dr. Herbert Bolton, who had written in the American Historical Review (1917, p. 45): "If there were twenty-one missions in California, there were…more in Florida…At one time the California missions had over 30,000 Indians under instruction, but a century and a half earlier the missions of Florida…had an equal number."5 Father Diomede in his exposition gave due prominence to the story of the 1597 uprising of the Gu ales and the slaying of the five friars.6
Another participant in the meeting was Father Maynard Geiger. In the previous year he had finished doctoral studies in Hispanic-American History at the Catholic University of America, and as his dissertation had published The Franciscan Conquest of Florida (1573-1618). Of the seven chapters into which this extraordinarily thorough work is divided, chapter III consisting of 40 pages treats "The Government of Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo and the Guale Revolt, 1596-1598."7 Liberally citing documentary sources, the doctoral candidate presents the story of the slaying in a setting of historical facts. A concluding section of the printed dissertation is titled "Essay on the Sources," and occupies almost thirty tightpacked pages of bibliography.8 It is understood that not all his references deal with the martyrdom, but in some way or other all the items give the setting for, and help to clarify, the slaying of 1597.
At the Santa Barbara meeting, Father Marion Habig, whose future work was to build on and reflect his special interest in the promotion of many causes of saintly Franciscans, gave a paper titled "The Franciscan Martyrs ofNorth America."9 This well-documented study (which in the Report of the meeting comprises over 50 pages) was a pioneer attempt to list all the friars slain for the Faith in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America. His list of 106 friars subsequently underwent some modifications, but basically it remains to this day a valid enumeration.10 Included in the paper is a detailed account of the martyrdom of the Five Servants of God, Fray Pedro de Corpa and his Companions.11 On August 4, before the closing of the meeting the fifty one friars who had participated signed a petition addressed in Latin to the Postulator General of the Order, asking that at least some of the friars on the list, for the glory of God and the honor of the Franciscan Order, be considered officially by the Holy See for the honors of the altars.12 What answer was given to the petition is not known. Certainly, however, the petition was the beginning of a concerted effort which, in a relatively short time, was to crystalize into the official promotion of the Cause of the Five Franciscan Martyrs of Georgia.
Franciscan History of North America, Franciscan Educational Conference, Report of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting, Santa Barbara, Califomia, August 2-4, 1936 (Brookland, Washington, D.C.: Franc. Ed. Conf., Office of the Secretary, Capuchin College).
Geiger, Conquest, 71-115.
Franciscan History, 274-329.
Ibid., 322-24, 329-30.