By John Webster Grant
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Extra info for A Profusion of Spires: Religion in Nineteenth-Century Ontario
Among the missionaries none commanded more admiration or aroused more suspicion than Jean de Brebeuf, who was the Jesuits' most accomplished linguist and most effective debater. In time, despite setbacks, the Jesuits secured a nucleus of followers, especially in the village of Ossernenon, where they had been longest established. During the 16405, as Iroquois attacks began to threaten the existence of the confederacy, an increasing number of Hurons turned to the Jesuits for leadership. According to the Jesuit Relation of 1648-9, more than 2,700 had been baptized in the previous thirteen months.
Missions among the Iroquois, however, were more successful than they have sometimes been reckoned. Although they left no residue of Roman Catholics in the Iroquois homeland, they attracted a significant proportion of the population to mission settlements in the St Lawrence valley. The Catholic Indians who reside in the portion of the Aquasasne, or St Regis, reserve that lies within Ontario constitute their legacy to the province. Although they were excluded from areas under French control, Protestant missionaries engaged in activities elsewhere that would have a later impact on the province.
Insisting also that they should hold themselves aloof from a sinful world, they embraced pacifism and advocated the strict separation of church and state. These radical positions, often urged with deliberate aggressiveness, had called forth severe persecution by both Protestant and Roman Catholic governments. When the movement seemed doomed, Menno Simons rallied some Dutch followers and persuaded them to withdraw from public agitation in order to live out their convictions within their own communities.