This statue of St. Francis Xavier, found outside of the Phoenix parish that bears his name, depicts the Jesuit co-founder and missionary carrying the cross. (Courtesy of St. Francis Xavier Parish)

Dec. 3

Known as the Apostle to the Indies and to Japan, Francis was born in Spanish Navarre, the youngest in a large family. He studied at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius of Loyola, and was among the first seven Jesuits who vowed to be spiritual soldiers for Christ. They were ordained as a group in 1537.

For 11 years, from 1541 until his untimely death after only two weeks on the Chinese coast, Francis evangelized in the East Indies, Mozambique, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Japan. A missionary prone to seasickness who had trouble learning foreign languages, Francis is the patron saint of missionaries, Borneo, the East Indies, India, Pakistan, Japan and Outer Mongolia.

He is also the patron saint of St. Francis Xavier Parish and School and of Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix.