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Saint John Francis Regis

Missionary Among the Poor


Public Domain

Jesuit Priest (1597-1640)

His life

+ John Francis Regis was born in Font-Couverte, France. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 18 and worked as a preacher and catechists for children. He was so successful, he succeeded in brining many of the children’s parents back to the Church. He was ordained at the age of 34.

+ Because of his gifts as a preacher, he was assigned to work as a missionary on the Huguenots (French Protestants). He was known for his simple, unpolished appearance and style of preaching and he showed a great preference for the poor, farmers, and laborers. When asked about this, he replied, “The rich never lack for confessors.”

+ Regis established a hostel for former prostitutes and helped to train poor girls in trades that would allow them to support themselves with dignity.

+ He called upon these and other women to take an active role in the care of the poor and they established a granary to provide wheat and flour, medical care, and protection for those most in need.

+ Regis’ fellow Jesuits were sometimes embarrassed by what some called his “simplicity and indiscretion.” But he persevered in his mission and was protected from harsh judgment by the local bishop.

+ In the days before his death, sensing the end was near, John Francis Regis spent days in retreat before beginning a new mission in La Louvesc, France. He died there on December 31, 1640.

+ Saint John Francis Regis was canonized in 1737 and is honored as a patron saint of embroiderers and lace makers—the same skills taught to the poor girls he worked to protect and support.

For reflection

A child is born for us, and a son is given to us;
his scepter of power rests upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called Messenger of great counsel.—Entrance Antiphon for December 31 (cf. Isaiah 9:5)


Almighty ever-living God,
who in the Nativity of your Son
established the beginning and fulfillment of all religion,
grant, we pray, that we may be numbered
among those who belong to him,
in whom is the fullness of human salvation.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Collect for December 31)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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