Catholic Pioneers of America – Father Louis Cancer, O.S.D.

Article

One of the Martyrs of Florida. Died A.D. 1549.

The Spanish missions in the New World had their Catholic heroes holy pioneers, who toiled amid the poverty and hardship of the wilder ness, and often met death with joy. Father Louis Cancer was one of them. A Dominican, and a native of Saragossa, in Spain, he began his labors as a missionary among the Indians of Mexico.

While in the fallen empire of Montezuma, he heard of the fierce tribes of Florida, and ardently desired to preach the Gospel among them. With three members of his Order, he landed on the western shore of the wild peninsula, on Ascension Day, 1549. The priests knelt amid “the forest primeval,” where the “murmuring pines and the hemlocks bearded with moss, stood like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic.” They recited a litany, and recommended their enterprise to God. Leading Father de Peñalosa to establish a mission at the landing-place, Father Cancer went on board the vessel, and moved down along the coast to Tampa Bay. Here he was informed by a Spaniard, who lived amongst the Indians, that Peñalosa had been murdered by the locals.

The natives at Tampa Bay, however, seemed very peaceable, and the good Father at once determined to preach the word of truth to them. But he was soon made aware that the apparently good disposi tions of this people were not to be relied upon. “I expected nothing less,” he said. “How often have I reflected on the execution of this enterprise, and felt that we could not succeed in it without losing much blood. So the Apostles did, and at this price alone can faith and religion be introduced.”

Father Cancer was not the man to be frightened by danger, and he bade a last adieu to his friends on the ship. In vain did they beseech him not to expose his valuable life. His only reply was: “This work is not to be accomplished without blood!” He landed. As he proceeded up the hilly shore the savages surrounded him, took off his hat, and with loud cries rushed upon the heroic son of Saint Dominic, who fell beneath their clubs, and with dying lips exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” His precious death occurred on the 25th of June, 1549.

MLA Citation

  • John O’Kane Murray, M.A., M.D. “Father Louis Cancer, O.S.D., One of the Martyrs of Florida”. The Catholic Pioneers of America, 1881. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 September 2018. Web. 12 November 2018. <>