John Gerard SJ
Aged 23, John Gerard became a Jesuit in Rome in August 1588. Having already studied at the Jesuit College in Clermont, he was sent almost immediately back to England. For six years he undertook a clandestine mission, bringing more than twenty influential families back to the Catholic faith and preaching the Spiritual Exercises. He worked closely with the Jesuit superior in England, Henry Garnet. He was captured in 1594 and sent to the Tower of London where he was tortured, fruitlessly, to reveal Garnet’s headquarters. In 1597 with the help of Nicholas Owen he made a daring escape from the Tower. He was implicated in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot because several of the plotters were those to whom he had ministered. He managed to escape to the continent (disguised as a servant of the Spanish Ambassador), and continued his ministry. Around 1620 he was removed from his position of novice-master in Liege because of his support for Mary Ward and her “English Ladies”, an early attempt to form an apostolic congregation of women. At the request of his superiors, he wrote his autobiography. After a decade as spiritual father, he died in the Roman College on 27th July 1637.