St. John Francis Regis
Fordham University, 1841
New York, New York
Saint John Francis Regis (1597-1640) was born in Fontcouverte, a small town in Southern France. At age fourteen he began six years of studies at the Jesuit school in Béziers. The curricula there included both high school and undergraduate college courses. When he was about twenty, John was accepted into the Jesuit Novitiate in Toulouse. After two years, he was again engaged in studies, prior to being ordained a priest. The plague struck Toulouse, and John asked to remain and care for those who suffered from the disease. But all the seminarians were sent to the countryside until the crisis subsided.
In 1630, after John had returned to Toulouse and had been ordained a priest, a further outbreak of the plague occurred. This time, the saint went among the sick, where he ministered to them with great care. Afterwards, he was sent to teach for two years at a Jesuit school in Pamiers. During the summer months, he discovered how much he loved the ministry of giving retreats and providing spiritual guidance for people who had been subjected to persecution during the Wars of Religion when their churches were destroyed and their priests were killed.
For the next eight years, John went up and down the mountainous countryside from parish to parish, staying for a few days in each place. He celebrated the Eucharist, preached and taught, visited prisons and helped arrange local service organizations to provide food and clothing for the poor. In 1640, though exhausted from travels through snow, John arrived at the village of Lalouvesc just in time for the Christmas Masses and Confessions. Taking no time for rest, he gave himself entirely to serving the needs of the people. But while ministering for many hours in very cold conditions, he contracted pneumonia, and died on December 31.
The figure of this great "domestic missionary" is shown vested in surplice and purple stole, emphasizing St. John’s ministry as a priest-confessor who brought very many persons back to Christ through both his eloquence and example. In his left hand is a Liturgical vessel, and in his right hand the Holy Eucharist, which he is about to administer to a communicant. Above the right shoulder of the saint is a silver fleur-de-lis, symbolic of his life-long devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The shield of Fordham University takes as its own the coat of arms of the Society of Jesus: an IHS with the three nails of the crucifixion on a blue background surrounded by maroon. The inscription reads: Fordham University, New York; the date of the foundation is 1841. The school colors are maroon and gray.