Witnesses to the Truth: The Remains of the Servants of God

Ultimate Disposition


When in the decades following the Revolt of 1597 peace had returned to Guale, a new era in the history of the Franciscan presence in La Florida was inaugurated. There then began a notable expansion of missionary activity to the north of San Agustin and in the central and western areas of the peninsula. An era was dawning which has been described as "the Golden Age of the Franciscan Missions in Florida."


The growth was preceded by a reorganization of the Franciscan Order in La Florida which took place in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. By a General Chapter held in Toledo, Spain, in 1606, the Florida mission was raised to the status of a custody (vice-province) dependent on the Caribbean Province of Santa Cruz, the headquarters of which was in Havana, Cuba. Six years later, in 1612, at the General Chapter of the whole Order, held at Pentecost in Rome, it was determined that the Custody of Santa Elena – embracing seven conventos in Florida and three in Cuba – should be raised to the dignity of an independent province, with headquarters in San Agustin. Embracing the friaries and missions in La Florida (present-day State of Florida, plus Georgia and part of South Carolina), the Province of Santa Elena thus became the first canonically erected Franciscan province within the territory which, a century and a half later, was to become the United States of America.

The act creating the Province of Santa Elena determined that a novitiate for the embryonic unit of the Order was to be set up in San Agustin, in the Convento de la Purisima Concepción de Nuestra Señora. As the site of a novitiate, that friary was to be a house in which the faithful observance of the Rule of St. Francis would be the effective way of training and inspiring the aspirants to the Order in the spirit of the Seraphic Founder, St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Canonically and traditionally the period of novitiate is a time of intensive formation in the ideals and the spirit of the Order and of the respective province to which the aspirant will belong. In that sense, an awareness of the history of the Franciscan presence in La Florida would be a precious inheritance, an element of vital importance for the growth and the flourishing of the new Province of Santa Elena.

We may see this as the reason why, in 1614, two years after the erection of the Province of Santa Elena, a distinguished theologian was sent by the Minister General of the Order to orient the new Province of Santa Elena in the vital work of preparing the future friars for the growing missionary challenge that was developing in La Florida. As his abiding legacy to the future of the infant Province, he wrote and caused to be published the history of the Franciscan activity in La Florida. Significantly, to his work he gave the meaningful title: Relación de los Mártires que a avido en las Provincias de la Florida.17

See above, 87, 92-95.

CREDIT: REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
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REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
The First Georgia Missions: Our Southern Catholic Heritage, Dr. Paul Thigpen and Katherine Ragan. Illustrations by Pamela Gardner, based on the retablo by Dan Nichols. This retablo is part of the parish patrimony of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Jasper, Georgia

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