Francois de Montmorency Laval was born to an aristocratic French family in 1623. Renouncing his family title and estate, Laval became a Catholic priest. After spending time in prayer and study under the incredible tutelage of Jean-Jacques Olier and future saints Vincent de Paul and John Eudes, Laval was made bishop at age 35 of New France, becoming the first bishop of Canada.
Laval would go on to create the diocese of Quebec and establish a school system in the vast region, including a seminary to train future priests and a technical school to provide farmers and craftsmen for the region. The young bishop not only cared for the French souls in the mission territory, but the Native Americans as well.
One of his first actions upon arrival to the New World was to journey to a Huron village to tend to the sick. He would travel across the vast country on foot and snowshoe in wintertime and canoe in the summer, wearing a hair shirt underneath his tattered cassock. Much to the displeasure of European merchants and authorities, Laval also fought the liquor trade that was destroying the native population. "We need only be faithful to Him and let Him work," said Laval, who was canonized a saint in 2014.
Impressed by his authentic concern for them, and his personal holiness, many natives were baptized into the Catholic faith under the hand of the bishop, including the chief of the Iroquois tribe, Garakontie. There were no parishes, and priests emanated from the seminary on mission trips, traveling as far as Illinois, to minister the sacraments, teach the faith and bring souls into the Church, returning eventually to their home base in Canada. They were inspired by their spiritual father, Bishop Laval.