Studied for the priesthood at Douai, France, beginning at age 39. Ordained at Binche, Hainault (in modern Belgium) on 11 June 1576. Two of his four brothers followed him into the priesthood. John returned to England on 7 November 1576 as a missioner to London. Joined the Jesuits at some point; though the date has been lost it was probably close to the time of his arrest.
In November 1577, he performed an exorcism on one of his parishioners; during the ceremony, the person predicted Father John’s impending doom. A week later, in the evening of 1 December 1577, John was arrested while at prayers, charged with Catholicism. On 30 January 1578 he managed to celebrate Mass in Newgate prison, apparently with materials that had been smuggled in. Condemned on 1 February 1578 for the treason of Catholic priesthood and refusal to acknowledge the Queen‘s supremacy in spiritual matters; he was thrown into the pit of the Tower of London for two days, and then excuted. His dying words were “I forgive the queen and all the authors of my death.”
- “Blessed John Nelson“. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 February 2010. Web. 1 August 2015. <>