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Reply #175: The Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766 1853) .. [View All]

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Princess Turandot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-21-09 06:35 AM
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was a Haitian slave who came to NYC in 1787. Freed at the death of his master in 1807, he became very wealthy as a highly sought after hairdresser. He used his own money to buy the freedom of the woman he would marry, Juliette Toussaint. They used their profits for charitable works including the building of what was NYC's first Catholic Cathedral, now called Old St. Patricks, at Mulberry and Prince Streets (near Little Italy for those of you unfamiliar with NYC.) He and his wife were buried in its graveyard. They also funded a school and care for orphans.

In 1990, his remains were disinterred and laid to rest in the crypt under the altar at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. I believe he is one of only a few people who were not Archbishops of the Cathedral or other clerics long associated with the Cathedral to be given that honor. (He actually may be the only non-priest interred there.)

This was done because it is widely expected that he will eventually be named the first Black American Saint of the Catholic Church. In 1996, he was given the title of 'Venerable' by John Paul II, which is the 2nd of 4 steps to being named a Saint.

In 1995, during a visit with clergy at St. Pat's, JP II explicitly referred to Toussaint: Beneath the high altar of this Cathedral, together with the former Cardinals and Archbishops of New York, there is buried the Servant of God Pierre Toussaint, a married man, a one-time slave from Haiti. What is so extraordinary about this man?...........................In the face of constant, painful discrimination he understood, as few have understood, the meaning of the words: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34: the words spoken by Jesus shortly before he died).

I only learned of him when I was doing some research on cemeteries which still exist in Manhattan (and I happen to be a Catholic.)


There are 2 photos of the church which he helped fund here:

It has a beautiful interior which has likely been seen by some of you. It was the church where Michael Corleone stood as Godfather to his nephew as his minions murdered every one of his rivals!
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