Tenth of fifteen children; his father was a farmer and merchant, and the boy was named after Saint John Francis Regis. He was raised in a pious family; one brother became a priest, one sister a nun. Studied at the Jesuit Royal College at Grenoble, France. Joined the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) in Lyons, France on 6 March 1769, making his final vows in 1771. Ordained in 1773. Professor of moral theology at the Vincentian seminary in Annecy, France. Nicknamed “the walking library” due to his encyclopedic knowledge. Rector of Annecy in 1786. Director of novices in Paris in 1788. Director of the internal seminary at mother-house of the Congregation of the Lazarists in Paris, France. His community was disbanded, and their house destroyed by the French Revolutionists. Missionary to China in 1791. Assigned to Kiang-si in October 1792, the only European in the area; in 28 years of work, he never mastered the language. In 1793 Clet moved to Hou-Kouang in the Hopei Province where he served as superior of an international group of Vincentian missioners scattered over a very large territory; his pastoral area covered 270,000 square miles. In 1811 government anti–Christian persecutions intensified; the missionaries were accused of inciting rebellion, and had to pursue their work while on the run, often hiding in the mountains. On 16 June 1819, with a bounty on his head, Francis was betrayed by a Christian schoolmaster whose behavior the missionary had tried to correct. Force marched hundreds of miles in chains to trial. On 1 January 1820 he was found guilty of deceiving the Chinese people by preaching Christianity. Martyr.
- slowly strangled to death with a rope while tied on a cross on 18 February 1820 at Au-tshung-fu, China
- buried on Red Mountain by local Christians
- re-interred at the Vincentian motherhouse, Paris, France
- relics moved to Saint Lazare church, Paris
- “Saint Jean-François-Régis Clet“. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 February 2017. Web. 28 February 2017. <>