Shortly after I was installed in the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas in Tallahassee as the First Bishop of the new Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Monsignor William Kerr, Rector of the Co-Cathedral, showed me around Tallahassee and told me a lot about the history of that part of North Florida.
One of the things he told me was the history of the Catholic converts to the Catholic Faith, the Native Americans of the Appalachia Indian Tribe who had a number of villages in the area. Those Indians were converted to the Catholic Faith by Spanish Franciscan Friars in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
I was shocked to learn from Monsignor Kerr that the villages and been destroyed and the Indians martyred by the English Governor Green from South Carolina, who, motivated by hatred of both Spain and the Roman Catholic Church marched south to Florida with an army composed of colonial troops and Creek Indian allies and ravaged the villages of North Florida.
Part of Governor Greens’s objective was the elimination of Spanish colonies in North Florida and also to enslave as many of the Appalachee indians as he could to bring back to the Carolinas to work on the plantations of the English colonies.
When Monsignor Kerr pointed out one of the sites of the Appalachee villages I said, “Lets buy the land and maybe someday we will be able to build a Shrine to the memory of the martyrs after Rome has beatified them. We bought the land and soon afterward a non-profit organization was formed to promote the cause of the martyrs and to build the shrine.
The Cause has been approved by the Congregation for Saints in Rome and much progress has been made assembling the historical documents which will form much of the basis for the eventual beatification.
EWTN is going to air a documentary on the Martyrs of La Florida, watch this trailer and watch the documentary when it airs on EWTN.