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Martyrs’ Shrine in Ontario Offers Rest and Renewal to Jesuits in New Guesthouse

October 5, 2018 — The Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, has opened a new guesthouse — The Magis — where Jesuits and other religious can go for rest and renewal.

The Martyrs’ Shrine

Jesuit Father Michael Knox, director of the Martyrs’ Shrine, hopes that after staying there, Jesuits will “be all the more available to their mission when they return to it.”

Located on the Shrine’s beautiful 70-acre grounds at the tip of Georgian Bay, the guesthouse provides a place where Jesuits can recharge, while also taking part in community life with the Jesuits who live and work at the Shrine.

A guest room at The Magis.

The Magis has 14 guest rooms, two of which are larger for Jesuits on sabbatical. It’s located right next to the Shrine’s new Jesuit residence, so guests “have an opportunity to share in meals with us in the community and pray in the chapel,” says Fr. Knox.

Fr. Michael Knox, SJ

The history and setting of the Shrine is also a unique part of the guesthouse. “The idea is that by calling it The Magis, we’re hoping this could be a spiritual touchstone, touching into the story of what inspired the passion of the early missionaries,” says Fr. Knox.

A Rich History

The Martyrs’ Shrine is located on the grounds of the original French Jesuit mission that was built in 1632 and lasted until 1649, when the Jesuits worked with the Wendat First Nations people. During that time many Jesuits came from France to serve there, and six Jesuits and two lay people gave their lives as martyrs.

In 1649, faced with disease and a war between the Wendat and the Iroquois, the Jesuits gave up their mission and burned it down. When Jesuits returned to Canada in the 1870s, the first place they went was to the ruins, where they celebrated Mass.

The Society slowly acquired back the land around the mission, and Fr. John M. Filion, SJ, the first provincial of English Canada, worked to get a shrine built. The Martyrs’ Shrine was opened in 1926, and by the 1930s it became a major destination point and was named a national shrine — the only national shrine in Canada, outside of Quebec.

During the 1960s, the Jesuit mission was reconstructed according to what was known of it from the Jesuits’ letters. Today, the reconstructed mission also has a world-class museum that tells the story of the Jesuit missions and their encounter with the First Nations people.

The interior of the church.

“With the mission, we have a site where people can walk through the lives of the Jesuit missionaries because there are people in costume who reenact events and explain the history; visitors also meet First Nations people who are telling the story of their culture,” explains Fr. Knox. “Then they can come up to the Shrine and pray with those saints, having gotten to know them a little more, asking for their intercession in their prayers to God.”

At the heart of the Shrine are the relics of martyrs St. Jean de Brébeuf, SJ; Saint Gabriel Lalemant, SJ; and Saint Charles Garnier, SJ. “There’s a beautiful connection between the two sites,” says Fr Knox.

The Shrine welcomes around 125,000 people each year — including some 15,000 Catholic school children who come on day retreat programs. In addition to the mission and Shrine Church, pilgrims can explore the grounds, which have fountains, gardens and smaller shrines.

Pilgrims visiting the Shrine.

Jesuits who are visiting have free access to the entire historic site, says Fr. Knox. An endowment from a benefactor allows Jesuit novices and scholastics who are living and studying in North America two nights free accommodation at the guesthouse. Rooms at The Magis guesthouse have their own bathrooms, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and telephone.

To learn more about the guesthouse, visit

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