Fr Roque González, born in the Paraguayan city of Asunción in 1576, was a member of the first Jesuit mission to his homeland: a trio of Jesuits known for their fervent promotion of the Christian faith among the indigenous people of Paraguay. The other two members of that trio were Alonso Rodríguez and Juan del Castillo, both originally from Spain and part of a large wave of 16th century Jesuits who, compelled by authentic missionary zeal, abandoned their past lives and all that was familiar for the opportunity to be missioned. They did this in order to respond to the call to bring the light of the good news to distant lands - at the cost of their own martyrdom. Though these “Companions of Jesus” lived, worked and met their martyrdom more than 4 centuries ago, their example of fidelity and sacrifice is still relevant today: guided by the light of a living faith, they knew how to understand God’s intentions before others and, by their free and loving response to his formative action, they become collaborators in his plan of liberation and salvation.
Fr Roque González and his collaborators are, in fact, among the pioneers of one of the most far-reaching and long-lived religious and social works in the history of the Society and its mission: the “reductions”. This method of integral evangelisation was one of the first that valued the culture and innate rights of indigenous peoples, took steps to bring Christianity into that original culture rather than demanding an adoption of Western Christianity, defended the new communities from exploitation, and led them along the paths of faith towards a fullness of Christian life, both personal and communal. While this method of evangelization was effective, it required a total self-giving on the part of the Jesuits engaged in such a form of apostolate, and a tenacious commitment to put to use their talents - that God himself had entrusted to them - at the service of the people.
Fr Roque González learned Guarani, the language of the indigenous peoples served by his mission, until he was able to both communicate perfectly with the indigenous people and teach the language to other missionaries; he tried to know as well as possible the indigenous way of living, of proceeding, of thinking, as well as their customs and habits - and all this while living among them with an irreproachable quality of life, and with such a degree of kindness that he was considered by them as a father who lavished himself on their behalf, educating them and developing their possibilities. All this took place in the midst of difficulties and dangers of all kinds, which are faced and overcome only because what sustains them is the strength of the Lord and trust in the protection of the Virgin Mary. Roque González himself gives eloquent testimony to this method of evangelisation and the way he proceeded in the Christian liberation of the indigenous populations.
Based on the Letter from Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, Superior General, 22 April 1988