Isaac Jogues

Isaac Jogues bigraphy, stories - Canadian saint

Isaac Jogues : biography

January 10, 1607 – October 18, 1646

Isaac Jogues (January 10, 1607 – October 18, 1646) was a Jesuit priest, missionary, and martyr who traveled and worked among the native populations in North America. He gave the original European name to Lake George, calling it Lac du Saint Sacrement, Lake of the Blessed Sacrament. In 1646, Jogues was martyred by the Mohawks near present day Auriesville, New York. Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and six other martyred missionaries, all Jesuits or laymen associated with them, were canonized in 1930, and are known as "The North American Martyrs". Their feast day is October 19, except in Canada, where the feast is celebrated on September 26. After his death his body was thrown in the St. Lawrence river.


Called the "Apostle of the Mohawks," and known to the Mohawks themselves as Ondessonk, "the indomitable one," Isaac Jogues was born on January 10, 1607, at Orleans, France, into a good bourgeois family; in 1624, at the age of seventeen, he entered the Jesuit novitiate school at Rouen. After having been professor of literature at Rouen, he was sent, in 1636, to New France as a missionary to the Huron and Algonquian allies of the French. On 3 August, 1642, while on his way by canoe to the country of the Hurons, Jogues, in the company of Guillaume Cousture, René Goupil, and several Huron Christians, was captured by a war party of Mohawk Iroquois. They were taken back to the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, now Auriesville, on the Mohawk River, about forty miles above the present city of Albany, where they were tortured. It was during this torture that several of Jogues’ fingers were cut off by his captors.

St. Isaac Jogues survived this torment and went on to live as a slave among the Mohawks for some time, even attempting to teach his captors the rudiments of Christianity. He was finally able to escape thanks to the pity of some Dutch merchants who smuggled him back to Manhattan. Jogues was the first Catholic priest who ever came to Manhattan Island (New York). From there, he managed to sail back to France, where he was greeted with surprise and joy. As a "living martyr", Jogues was given a special permission by Pope Urban VIII to say Holy Mass with his mutilated hands, as the Eucharist could not be touched with any fingers but the thumb and forefinger.

Yet his ill-treatment by the Mohawk Iroquois did not dim the missionary zeal of Jogues. Within a few months, he was on his way back to Canada to continue his work. In 1645, a tentative peace was forged between the Iroquois and the Hurons, Algonquins, and French. In the spring of 1646, Jogues was sent back to the Mohawk country along with Jean de Lalande to act as ambassador among them.

However, some among the Mohawks regarded Jogues as a practitioner of magic, and when the double-calamity of sickness and crop failure hit the Mohawks, Jogues was the easiest thing to blame their now prevalent problems on. On October 18, 1646, Jogues and LaLande were tomahawked in the neck (beheaded-not clubbed as some tell the story).

Mosaic of St. Isaac Jogues in the [[Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis]] North American Martyrs Today, the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, maintained by the Jesuits, stands on or near the site (ten years after Jogues’ death, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in approximately the same place). Brébeuf and five of his companions were killed in Canada in 1648 and 1649. The Mohawk Indians stripped him naked and beat him to death.

St. Issac Jogues was canonized on June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI along with seven other Canadian Martyrs. His Day of Remembrance is October 19. A statue of Father Jogues stands in the village of Lake George, in a park by the lake.

At Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus in the Bronx, New York, a freshman dormitory—Martyrs’ Court—has three sections, which are named for the three U.S. martyr-saints: Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, and John LaLande. Dormitories at LeMoyne College in Syracuse and at Fairfield University in Connecticut are also named for Jogues.

The novitiate of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus just outside Wernersville, Pennsylvania was named for Jogues. It is now called the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, PA.

Camp Ondessonk, a Roman Catholic youth camp located in downstate Ozark, IL is named for St. Isaac Jogues’ Mohawk name. Most of the camp’s living quarters for the campers are each named for one of the Jesuit martyrs as well as one for Saint Kateri Tekakwitha:

St. Jean de Brébeuf St. Noël Chabanel St. Antoine Daniel St. Charles Garnier St. René Goupil St. Jean de Lalande St. Gabriel Lalemant


  • Francis W. Halsey: Jesuits and Church of England Men
  • Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, vol. 2 of France and England in North America (1867).


Early in the seventeenth century the Jesuits began to arrive in Quebec. Among the more notable of these men were Brebeuf, Daniel, Masse, Lalemant, Chabanel, Ragueneau, Garnier, Jogues, and Le Jeune. It was Le Jeune, a Huguenot in early life, who conceived the plan for keeping his superiors of the Society of Jesus, as well as the European laity, informed of the great undertaking, by the careful compilation of missionaries’ letters, which described in detail their experiences and impressions. Every summer, for a period of forty years, these reports were despatched back to Paris, where they were published serially under the title of "Jesuit Relations". They form an historical chronicle of the highest value, and it is to them that we are mainly indebted for our knowledge of Father Jogues.