Gonçalo da Silveira was born in Almeirim, on the 23rd of February 1521, into an aristocratic family, the 11th child of the first Count of Sortelha. Evidencing a missionary calling from a very early age, he joined the Society of Jesus at 22.
A contemporary of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and of Saint Francis Xavier, his religious path was influenced by both of them.
Renowned for his oratory skills, Gonçalo da Silveira was the first Superior of the Casa Professa de São Roque (Professed House of Saint Roch), in Lisbon. Pursuing his vocation abroad, Gonçalo da Silveira became a missionary in Goa (India) and, subsequently, the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits. From Goa he traveled to Africa, founding and fostering Jesuit missions in Gamba, Tongue, Inhambane and in the Kingdom of Mutapa, where he was made welcome with showerings of gifts and privileges, which he declined.
His disinterest and detachment from worldly goods quickly captivated the King of Mutapa. Later, however, under pressure from Muslim and Portuguese traders jealous of Father Gonçalo’s influence, the king sentenced him to death. And thus ended, at 40 years of age, a life dedicated to the search of the magis, which he had learnt from Saint Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises.