Franciscan missionary activities in the New World go back to the earliest contacts of the Spanish explorers with the native peoples of America.
Since it is certain that no priest or religious accompanied Columbus on the 1492 voyage of discovery, the first missionaries to the New World were two French-Belgian Franciscan lay brothers, Fray Juan de la Deule and Fray Juan de Tisin, who were members of Columbus' second voyage in 1493. From then on, the largest missionary group working with the Indians was the Franciscans. In the sixteenth century alone, a total of 2,782 Franciscan missionaries came to America. Not surprising is it, therefore, that the most significant missionary methods and institutions which came into use all over the American continent had their origin in the Franciscan experience with the Indians. It is also readily seen that the Order had to build a strong missionary organization so that its members might carry out in the best possible manner the ideal of Christianizing this vast New World.
A brief explanation of the Franciscan missionary organization is helpful for our understanding of the activities of the friars in Georgia, of their commitment and dedication to the work of evangelization. The complex organization of the Franciscan Order in the Americas throws light also on the difficulties of discovering documents and other pertinent materials relating to our martyrs, a difficulty that explains some of the lacunae in our Report.