Juan Bautista de Moya was born at Jaén, Spain in 1504. In 1522 he entered in the Order of Saint Augustine in the city of Salamanca, where the Augustinian house of studies was flourishing under the direction of learned and saintly Augustinians. In the novitiate, his novice master was the saintly Luis de Montoya O.S.A., and among his fellow novices were Alonso de Orozco (now a saint of the Church), Alfonso de Borja and Augustin de Coruna (later a bishop and de Moya’s biographer).
In 1523 de Moya made his first profession in front of the Augustinian Provincial of Castile, Thomas of Villanova (now a saint of the Church). Juan Bautista de Moya O.S.A. was ordained to the priesthood in 1527. with Alfonso de Borja and Augustin de Coruna, he was part of the second group of Augustinian missionaries assigned to Mexico, and reached there in July in 1536. For the next fourteen years, he ministered in Mexico City and country areas. In 1550 he returned to Mexico City as a member of the Augustinian provincial council. Not long afterwards, in ill health he was sent to Morelia and remained there for a few years.
He was then in 1554 appointed as Prior (leader) of the Augustinian convento at Tacambaro, situated in the Tierra Caliente (literally the so-called “hot lands”), which borders on the states of Michoacan and Guerrero. He founded the town of Huetamo. When it received a mayoralty in 1572, it was officially named San Juan Huetamo, i.e., dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in memory of him, Juan Baptist Moya O.S.A. Juan Bautista de Moya was always a great example of holiness. He followed an austere lifestyle. He dedicated himself to preach, to dispensing the Sacraments, to visit those who were poor or in prison. He was responsible for the building of churches, schools and hospitals.
But where he was most outstanding was in his breadth of vision and in his strong relationships with the native people. He learnt the otomì and purepecha languages, and was able to penetrate in the depth of the local culture and to defend the religious values it upheld. Because many other missionaries sought to eradicate any pre-Christian values, Juan Bautista de Moya stood out for his defence of retaining what was compatible with Christianity in the local culture. He successfully challenged the policy of excluding native converts to Christianity from receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and became known as the apostle to the native peoples.
Although dynamic in evangelisation and community-building, he had a weak physical constitution. In 1567 during what was to be his final illness, the people carried him on a stretcher to the larger Augustinian convento at Morelia. On 15 July 1996 permission was granted by Rome to investigate his cause for sainthood in the Catholic Church, and on 14th September 1996 proceeding officially began in the Diocese of Morelia. The diocesan enquiry successfully closed on 18th August 1997, and the documents were sent to Rome for further action in the process. AN4355