John’s mother, Catalina, moved her family to Medina del Campo, a Castilian town of about 30,000, a favorite of Isabella, the Catholic Monarch, who died here in 1504. This was the family’s third and final move, for in Medina they found work and food and immersed themselves in charitable activities for the needy. John lived here for thirteen years, from age nine to twenty-two (1551-64). Around this time, Catalina sent young John to one of Medina’s so-called Catechism schools, boarding schools where orphans learned a trade and were fed and clothed by the support of generous benefactors. Later, John moved to Conception Hospital and showed considerable ability and interest in hospital ministry, both in his dedicated and loving service of the patients and in begging for financial support for the hospital’s many needs. John also learned excellent administrative skills from Don Alonso Alvarez de Toledo, the gentleman who gave his wealth and life to the service of the hospital. At 17, while continuing his work at the hospital, John began studying at the nearby Jesuit College, where he showed significant success at school work and developed a love for study. Although given little time for school work, John delighted in studying at night, and began to feel at home in the experiences of the night.
During this time, Catalina and her extended family continued to struggle in poverty, but always shared the little they had with others, less fortunate, including abandoned orphans. Catalina had trained Francisco and John well; both were experts in the service of the poor, sick, and needy; and these qualities would remain with John throughout his life. He learned that accumulation of material goods has no real value; whatever you have can become a source of richness. Their move from self-centeredness to other-centeredness became the model for John’s own life. Moreover, Catalina and Francisco had the gift of helping people to find satisfaction in giving and responding to the needs of others, a lesson John would never forget. They taught John the importance of simple, honest, dedicated work, purity in relationships and love, and the enriching values of family and friendships.
John returned to Medina del Campo to celebrate his first Mass.