The first missionaries to North America arrived in 1608 in Acadia, Nova Scotia. They were the Jesuits Pierre Biard and Ennemond Massé, who began work among the Souriquois Indians. This phase of the work of preaching the Gospel was brought to a standstill in 1613 as a result of an English raid.
After things had settled down, the indefatigable Governor of New France, Samuel Champlain, continuously asked for missionaries from France. At his request, several Franciscans came in 1615.
These labored heroically, but in need of additional help, appealed to the Jesuits. In 1625 three Jesuits landed in Quebec: Jean de Brébeuf, Charles Lalemant and Ennemond Massé returning from France.
Others joined the missions including: Antoine Daniel, Isaac Jogues, Charles Garnier, Noël Chabanel, René Goupil, Jean de Lalande, and Gabriel Lalemant.
By the late 1640's, after years of heroic perseverance, oftentimes in appalling circumstances, the Jesuits were making a considerable number of conversions mostly among the Hurons.
The Iroquois, deadly enemies of the Hurons, considered the missionaries targets, and indeed massacred the seven mentioned above and also Jean de Brébeuf. Some of them were tortured beyond belief before being tomahawked, beheaded or having their still-beating hearts wrenched from their chests. Having survived the first round of tortures, Fr. Isaac Jogues had returned to France maimed, but he chose to rejoin the missions and finally met his death by martyrdom like his companions.
Canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI, the martyrs are, collectively, the secondary patrons of Canada. Sts. René Goupil, Isaac Jogues and Jean de Lalande are considered the first U.S. saints because they were martyred in upstate New York.