St. Peter Claver, born in 1581 with the Spanish name Pedro Claver y Corberó, was a Jesuit missionary who dedicated his life to helping enslaved Africans in South America. He is most known for his title as the “Patron Saint of Slaves.”
It was in the year 1602 when Peter Claver entered the Society of Jesus. By the year 1610, he was sent to Cartagena and was ordained there six years later. At the time, Cartagena had a reputation for being South America’s chief slave market, and living in this town allowed Peter Claver to witness the reality of slavery in the country.
Seeing the miserable conditions of enslaved people aboard ships and in the pens of Cartagena, Peter Claver decided to take action and help alleviate their suffering. Accompanied by interpreters, he often boarded every slave ship and visited pens to bring comfort to the terrified captives. He personally nursed the sick, brought food to the slaves, and taught them religion.
Despite opposition from powerful officials, Peter Claver carried on with his mission for 38 years and baptized an estimated 300,000 enslaved individuals. Witnesses say he often visited the captives on the local plantations to encourage their faith and to plead their masters to treat them humanely. During these visits, Peter Claver refused the hospitality of the plantation owners and opted to stay in the slave quarters. (Read: Catriona Gray takes stand on racism, joins ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement)
In 1896, Pope Leo XIII canonized Peter Claver and named him as patron of all Roman Catholic missions to African peoples. He was also named as the patron saint of those in slavery and the Republic of Colombia. His feast day is celebrated today, September 9.
Prayer to St. Peter Claver
Lord, for love of you, St. Peter Claver became the faithful servant of slaves.
Through his prayer, help us to see the true dignity of the human family, all children of one father, and to spend ourselves for their salvation.
We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer from clavermissionarysisters.org.