A pilgrimage along the Kennebec River will give participants an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Fr. Sebastian Râle, a Jesuit martyr who ministered to the Abenaki people 300 years ago.

The pilgrimage is set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, and will start at St. Sebastian Church on 161 Main St. in Madison, where prayers and reflections will be shared. A procession will follow through the site of Râle’s mission to the Fr. Râle monument, where it is believed he is buried. Along the way, there will be stops to read and reflect on Râle’s letters, which tell of his missionary work. The event will conclude by 1 p.m., according to a news release from the Roman Catholi Diocese of Portland.

Originally from Pontarlier, France, Sebastian Râle (also spelled Râsle) joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1674. Fifteen years later, he traveled to the Americas, where he first served in Illinois and in Canada, before settling along the Kennebec.

“When he encountered this amazing, burning love for the heart of Jesus, it lit his own heart on fire,” said Joe Moreshead, the director of faith formation at the Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth. “He had to make the love of Jesus Christ known to the farthest corners of the world. In Fr. Râle’s day, Madison, Maine, was the farthest imaginable corner of the world!”

While living among the Abenaki, Râle composed a catechism and a dictionary in their language and is credited with establishing the first school in what is now the state of Maine. It was a time of conflict, however, with France and England struggling for control of the Americas and in 1724, Râle was killed by the British while defending the Abenaki people.

Participants are asked to bring rosary beads, bug spray, water, and a lawn chair, if needed.

For more information, email Moreshead at [email protected].


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