Martyrs of Paraguay (Sts. Roque Gonzalez, Juan Castillo, Alonso Rodriguez)

Feast Day: November 17
Canonized: 1988

Three missionaries went to Paraguay to share the Good News of Jesus with the native people. These Jesuit priests preached about Jesus and God’s saving plan for all people. Many Paraguay natives listened and believed in their message. They asked to be baptized and began to live new lives as Christians.

Rogue Gonzalez loved God even as a young child. It did not surprise people when he decided to become a priest. Father Gonzalez was ordained when he was 23 years old. Because he was born in Paraguay, the natives of his land had always interested him. He wanted to work among them. He decided to join the Jesuit order so that he could do missionary work with the natives of his country.

Father Gonzalez loved his new work. He went to tiny villages to teach the people about Jesus. He helped them to build settlements and community centers where they could live together, grow in faith, learn skills, receive an education, and be protected from slave raiders.

Two young priests from Spain, Father Alphonsus Rodriguez and Father Juan de Castillo, heard about Father Gonzalez’s work. They traveled to South America to help him establish more settlements. One day, Father Gonzalez and Father Rodriguez went to Brazil to begin work on new settlement. They left Father Castillo in charge of the settlement where they were living.

The local medicine man was angry at the work of the Jesuit priests. They had changed the hearts of so many people that he had lost many of his followers. He organized a group of his believers and plotted to kill the Jesuits.

Father Rodriguez was hanging a small church bell at the new settlement when the medicine man’s followers attacked and killed him. Father Gonzalez was in the chapel when he heard the noise. He, too, was killed when he went to check on his friend. The attackers burned the chapel to the ground. Two days later they returned to Paraguay and killed Father Castillo.

The Church honors these three Jesuits as saints. They followed Jesus’ command to his apostles: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We can join in their work by praying for all the missionaries who bring Christ to people all over the world.