Father Juan del Castillo was the third Jesuit to suffer martyrdom at the hands of the
indigenous people of the South American Reductions. He was born in Belmonte,
province of Toledo, Spain, on 14 November 1596. After studying law for a year
at the University of Alcalá, he chose to enter the novitiate in Madrid in 1614.
As early as 1616, he was sent to the missions of South America; one of his
travelling companions was the young Alonso Rodríguez, who would also die as a
martyr. The two young Jesuits went to Córdoba, Argentina, to study theology.
Juan del Castillo was ordained a priest in 1623 or 1624 and sent to the mission
of the Incarnation in Itapuá. It was there that Fr Roque González met him and
invited him to come with him to found the Mission of the Assumption on 15
August 1628. Juan del Castillo was entrusted with the responsibility of this
establishment, while Fr González left to set up other reductions.
Fr del Castillo knew nothing of the hatred and jealousy of a witch doctor called
Nezú, who had convinced his subordinates that all Jesuits should be put to
death. On 15 November 1628, Nezú’s men killed Frs. Rocco González and Alonso
Rodríguez at the Mission of All Saints. Having reported their misdeed to their
leader, he ordered Fr Juan del Castillo to be killed. The next day, Nezú’s men
found the missionary praying in his room. They attacked him, took him into the
forest and beat him to death. They then set fire to his body. Afterwards, they
stole everything he owned, including his priestly vestments and objects of
worship, for the use of their chief Nezú.
Roque González, Juan del Castillo and Alonso Rodríguez are venerated as “the martyrs
of Paraguay”. They were beatified by Pope Pius XI in January 1934 and canonised
by John Paul II on 16 May 1988.
Source: Joseph N. Tylenda, SJ, Jesuit Saints & Martyrs, Loyola University Press, Chicago