More than any other nation, the history of America has its origins in the establishment of religious freedom. Many faiths had to struggle, however, to achieve equal access to liberty. Roman Catholicism, the established religion of Western Europe during the medieval period, traveled to the New World with the French and Spanish explorers and fur trappers, but it was soon overshadowed by various Protestant settlements and denominations. The French came to control an area that stretched from New Orleans to Canada, while the Spanish settled St.
Augustine, Florida, the first Catholic colony in America. In addition, the Spanish and French sent Jesuit missionaries to convert Native American tribes. These Jesuits were actually more successful than later Protestant missionaries in converting native populations because they allowed tribes to practice their own traditions.
One Jesuit missionary, Father Isaac Jogues, helped establish a mission for Hurons who were suffering from disease. He was then captured by a band of Mohawks (Iroquois), but, after being kept as a slave for a year, he escaped and returned to France briefly. He returned to take up missionary work with the Mohawks, but was later accused of sorcery, tortured, and killed. Home – St.
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