After completing studies in Spain at age 19, Xavier was sent to study at the University of Paris. He read philosophy and theology for a career as a professor. He met Ignatius Loyola in Paris and they developed a warm friendship. In 1534 he joined Layola and five of others in the formation of the Society of Jesus.
Xavier left Paris in 1536 to join Layola in Venice, Italy, from where it was intended that they would go to Palestine as missionaries. That trip never materialized . In Venice, Xavier engaged in charitable work among the sick. He was ordained in 1537 and in the next year went to Rome where he participated in the conference which led to the formal recognition of the Society of Jesus by the Pope
In 1542 he was sent to the Far East becoming the first Jesuit missionary. His mission was to strengthen and deepen Christian faith among nascent Christian communities in the Portuguese colonies. He began his ministry in Goa, India where he also established new Christian missions.
Leaving the subcontinent, Xavier traveled extensively in the Far East often under the most deplorable conditions, including extremes of heat and cold, and frequently on his bare feet. His ministry extended to the Island of Ceylon and to other Portuguese colonies in the East indies.
His work, proselytizing native populations opened his ayes to colonial abuses. In letters to his financial patron, King John of Portugal, he protested against the mistreatment of the natives by Portuguese settlers, and admonished against Portugal's part in the slave trade and in the plunder of colonies for their riches.
Conquering the Japanese language, he introduced Christianity to Japan, and not withstanding considerable opposition to his preaching by some of the Japanese leadership, he established a number of Christian communities which grew and survive to this day. His plan to extend his missionary work to mainland China was stopped by his illness and subsequent death on the Island of Sancian, near the coast of China.
Called healer, prophet and miracle worker, Francis Xavier is credited with teaching Catholic catechism to tens of thousands of people, particularly to the young; with deepening and strengthening the understanding of the faith among Christian communities throughout the Far East; and with bringing thousands of people to Christianity in India, Ceylen, the East Indies and Japan, Francis Xavier was beatified in October 1619, canonized in March 1622 and proclaimed patron of all foreign missions on December 3rd of the same year. He his interred in the Basilica Bom Jesus in Goa, India.
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
As in The Bahamas, St. Francis Xavier serves today as patron to Roman Catholic missions, parish churches, and the dioceses on every continent around the world.
The archipelago comprising The Bahamas includes seventeen sizable islands and hundreds of smaller ones, cays and rocks. They stretch south-eastwardly from within fifty miles of the east coast of Florida, U.S.A., to a similar distance from the eastern end of Cuba.
The total land surface is only 4,400 square miles, but the islands are spread over a vast area on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. From northwest to south-east, this chain of islands run six hundred miles.
The following outline presents highlights of the growth and development of St. Francis Xavier Church, from the nineteenth century American Catholic Mission in a small British Colony to today's twenty-first century Catholic Cathedral in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
In July 1885, Lady Georgiana and her husband, Surgeon-Major F. G. Ayde-Curran, visited Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan of New York. The reason for their visit was to beg him to send a priest to reside in Nassau, Bahamas. Between 60 and 80 Catholics residing there - British, Irish, Spanish, Cubans, Haitians and other foreign workers, merchants, diplomats, soldiers - had no priestly help for many months on end.
Fr. Charles G. O'Keefe of the Archdiocese of New York, accompanied the Ayde - Currans back to Nassau. Meanwhile, the Congregation of the Propagation of the faith in Rome was preparing to transfer responsibility for evangelizing the inhabitants of the Bahamas Islands from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolin, to the Archdiocese of New York, U.S.A.
July 28, 1885 New York Archdiocese formally accepted responsibility for evangelization of residents in the Bahamas Island.
In August 1885, was established the first Catholic Parish in The Bahamas by Father Charles G. O'keefe of New York. The world famous missionary, St. Francis Xavier, was selected as its patron.
Father O'Keefe appointed a building committee, and within a few days, construction of a church to seat about 100 persons was stated. One of the building committee members, Samuel Theus Smith, was the maternal grandfather of Peter Bowe, father of Mrs. Ruth Bowe-Darville, currently a member of this Cathedral Parish.
Lady Georgiana Ayde-Curran who strove incessantly for a resident priest and an established Catholic church in Nassau, laid the cornerstone for St. Francis Xavier Church on a small lot on West St. hilltop, which overlooks the Western entrance to Nassau Harbour.
Nov. 7 of 1886, The first Mass for the parish, in the newly completed little church, was offered by Father A.J. Ryan of the Archdiocese of New York.
Feb. 13, 1887, Most Rev. Michael A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, dedicated little St. Francis Xavier Church.