The son of prosperous farmers, John Bapst was born on December 7, 1815, at La Roche, a village of the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland.
A pious and studious young man, by the age of 12 he was attending St. Michael's College in Fribourg. He later enrolled in the Sons of St. Ignatius, entering the Society of Jesus at 19.
On December 31, 1846, Father John Bapst, S.J was ordained into the priesthood. He completed his third year of probation at Notre Dame D'Ay in France, and in May 1848, upon the expulsion of the Jesuits from Switzerland, he was sent to America.
Father Bapst’s first assignment in America included the Indian Mission of Old Town, where he lived from 1848-1851.
He arrived there as a stranger, ignorant of the native language and traditions. Ten of his predecessors had been murdered, and for 20 years the mission had been without the services of a Catholic priest.
His immediate predecessor, Father Raslo, also of the Society of Jesus, had been murdered 20 years before at the foot of a cross that he had erected on the mission grounds.
When Father Bapst arrived on Indian Island, he was given a warm welcome, as the inhabitants were eager to have a priest in their midst once again. After three months of study, Father Bapst reportedly was able to preach to the Indians in their own tongue.
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