St. Jean de Brébeuf, SJ, who lived from 1593-1649, arrived in what was then part of New France, in the region of modern-day Ontario and upstate New York, in 1625.
For many years he lived and worked among the Huron people. In spite of his great strides in learning the Huron language and culture, he and the other European Christian missionaries in the region encountered fierce resistance; it was only in the late 1640s that significant numbers of indigenous people began to convert to Christianity. The missionaries, who had established themselves among the Huron people, were caught in the middle of the ongoing conflict between the Huron and the Iroquois people, their ancestral enemies. Jean de Brébeuf was captured by the Iroquois and savagely tortured and killed in 1649. He was canonized in 1930 along with seven other Jesuit missionaries. Together they are known as the North American Martyrs, in recognition of their efforts to proclaim the gospel during the early years of European settlement in North America. In the universal Church calendar we celebrate St. Jean de Brébeuf’s feast day on October 19 (together with the other North American martyrs), though in Canada it is celebrated on October 26. Canada is also entrusted to St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, whose feast is celebrated on March 19.