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St. Isaac Jogues, SJ

St. Isaac Jogues, SJ by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artwork Narrative:

Issac Jogues was a French Jesuit who was sent as a missionary to North America when he was 29 years old. During the remaining ten years of his life, he explored the forests and waterways of Canada, eventually reaching the eastern entrance to Lake Superior. In 1642 he was captured in what is now New York by the Mohawk nation. Dutch colonists helped him escape, but he returned to the place of his captivity to try to convert the native people. His actions seemed strange to the Mohawks -- the way he traced the sign of the cross on the foreheads of children, for example -- and they suspected him of witchcraft. After an outbreak of sickness in the village, and then when the village crops failed as well, he was killed, together with a French layman named Jean Laland.

This icon was designed as part of the reredos of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the reredos it is placed to the left of an icon of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, so that the French missionary is pointing toward the Mohawk saint.

His feast day is October 19.

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Saint Isaac Jogues, (born Jan. 10, 1607, Orléans, France—died Oct. 18, 1646, Ossernenon, near Fort Orange, New Netherland [now Auriesville, N.Y., U.S.]; canonized 1930; feast day October 19), French-born Jesuit missionary who sacrificed his life for the Christianization of North American Indians.

Jogues entered (1624) the Society of Jesus at Rouen, France, was ordained in 1636, and was assigned to Canada. For six years in the Huron lands near Georgian Bay he instructed and aided the Indians. In 1641 he began the Jesuit missions to the Ojibwa tribe at Sault-Ste-Marie. The following year warring Iroquois captured him, his companion René Goupil, and a Huron band near Montreal and brought them to Ossernenon, where Goupil was slain. Jogues was enslaved for 13 months.

Aided by the Dutch of nearby Fort Orange (Albany), he escaped down the Hudson River, becoming the first priest to visit New Amsterdam (now New York City). On Christmas of 1643 he reached France, where he had been presumed dead. In 1645–46 he was sent by the government to Ossernenon to establish peace between the French and the Mohawk Indians. But when he arrived at Ossernenon the Mohawks accused him of witchcraft, murdered him, and placed his head on a pole for public display.

Born: 1607 at Orleans, France

Died: Tomahawked and scalped by an Iriquois chief on 18 October 1646 at Ossernenon in what would become upstate New York, USA

Canonized: June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI