St. John Regis, though born more than 400 years ago, was in many ways a man for our times.
Pope John Paul II honored him in 1997 as an example of holiness and example for the church in today’s world. Among his patronage are those of medical social workers and illegitimate children. The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation is named in his honor as well as many schools and parishes, a lake, a mountain and public buildings.
Even as a child, John was overtaken by his religious fervor. It is said that at 5 years old he fainted upon hearing his mother expound on the destiny of the eternally damned. He was known to be a “loner,” preferring introspection to play with children of his own age.
Educated by Jesuits, he proved to be an able student, and even during free time dedicated himself to reading and devotions. At the age of 19, John entered as a novice with the Jesuits and proved his humility by gladly serving to do menial work or serve dressing the sores of the ill in the hospitals. He completed his probation in 1618 and continued his training.
John was admired for his instruction of catechism to children, and through his persistence to break down the barriers of the reticent adults. His superiors were amazed to see how his catechisms were eagerly followed and affected so many conversions, while elegant sermons by others had so few to hear them and produced so little results.
During an outbreak of the plague in Toulouse, he willingly administered to the sickened. He worked diligently to try to convert the Huguenots, who had drifted away from the Catholic Church. He had wanted to come to Canada to work with the people of the first Nations but was not allowed to pursue that desire. His name lives on however, in New York State among the Akwesasne at the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from www.franciscanmedia.org