Born to the Paraguayan nobility. Jesuit priest. One of the architects of the Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay. Realizing the damage of the slave trade, the Jesuits gathered the indigenous Indians and went inland. In Paraguay, beginning in 1609, they built settlements, taught agriculture, architecture, construction, metallurgy, farming, ranching and printing. By the time the Jesuits were expelled in 1767 they had 57 settlements with over 100,000 native residents.
Roch served as doctor, engineer, architect, farmer and pastor, supervised the construction of churches, schools and homes, and introduced care for cattle and sheep to the natives. He adapted his tactics to the locals love of ornament, dancing, and noise. On the great feasts of the Church, Roch solemnly celebrated Mass outside the little thatched church, and then the whole village dressed in their best and celebrated the rest of the day with games, bonfires, religious dances, flute music, and fireworks. Fierce warriors were softened by Roch’s gentle Christianity, put aside their hatred for religion, and embraced the faith; violent revenge, previously part of the local culture, was abandoned.
This progress recevied a severe blow by the arrival of slave traders who were able to influence the Spanish crown and get permission for their activity. They lured natives away from the Reductions, betrayed them, and sold them into slavery. Roch became a stanch protector of their freedom, pleading the Indian cause so forcefully with the Spanish government that the Reduction of Saint Ignatius was finally left in peace.
Because of his success in evangelizing the natives, a local witch-doctor who was losing his power base murdered Roch along with Saint John de Castillo and Saint Alphonsus Rodriquez. One of the Jesuit Martyrs of Paraguay.
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Paraguay
- John Paul II’s Book of Saints
- Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints