The history in a nutshell: this beautiful church (surrounded by grounds that are just as lovely) was built to honour eight men martyred during the Jesuit missions to New France in the 17th century, with architecture that blends both European and First Nations' cultures.
Our first ever before-Mass-family-selfie
We especially loved the Irish Peace Garden
I had to send the photo below to Gretchen Rubin (author of my beloved The Happiness Project) as she often refers to St. Therese of the Little Flower in her work. And yes, she replied to my tweet!
The ceiling of the church - designed to look like the inside of a canoe.
From the gift shop: a book for my classroom prayer table, and Olivia picked up a rosary made of olive wood from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. (Olivia/olive...you caught that, right? Plus my mother-in-law gave me an Our Lady of Olives medal to wear on my hospital gown when I was giving birth to Liv. Neat connections.)
After that, we drove across the highway (it's really that close) to...
SAINTE-MARIE AMONG THE HURONS
We all learned a ton at Sainte-Marie (a recreation of Ontario's first European community), partly because of the amazing young interpreters who were giving thorough explanations throughout the village in areas such as the shoemaker/tailor's, hospital, cemetery, cookhouse and apothecary shop and garden.
I'd really recommend starting with the video in the main building before entering the village - it's extremely informative (with a balanced viewpoint between the First Nations and European perspectives), plus there's a surprise right at the end that my girls enjoyed - though really little ones might not have the attention span for the content.
Our self-guided tour (with a very helpful site map) was also enhanced by the fact that the village is very hands-on: no signs saying "don't touch" or ropes keeping visitors back from displays, so it seemed very warm and welcoming. (And I'm not just saying warm because we were there on a 36 degree day.)
The girls tried their hands at quill pen writing (one of the summer activities running each day along with craft-making)...and Liv quickly learned that it was a harder task for a lefty!
Trying on some clothing from the time period (obviously just the skirt, not the top - though they match well. Old Navy may want to consider a new line):
Making a craft
Watching the blacksmith work
Listening to an expert in one of the longhouses
During the summer, there are also scheduled activities at different times of the day: we caught the waterway demonstration and music presentation (did you know The Huron Carol - T'was in the Moon of Wintertime - was written by a Jesuit, but originally in the native Wendat language, as a way of explaining the birth of Jesus in a way the people would understand?) and you can also enjoy fire starting, 17th century cooking, First Nations games (I saw some lacrosse sticks propped up ready to go), storytelling and 17th century medicine presentations.
When touring, I was particularly interested in the Church of Saint Joseph, which we were told was designed differently from other churches of the day in an effort to bridge the gap between Wendat and French cultures. For example, there were no "back rooms" where priests could change their vestments, as the Wendat people were used to large, open gathering areas and would be suspicious of any activities that needed to be done in secret. Martyred Saints Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalement have their graves at the back of this church as well.
Families with a passion for history should really consider a road trip to Midland to take in these great attractions, and teachers may want to think about future field trips as well. Definitely worth it!
Disclosure: We were provided free admission to Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.