St. Peter Claver
Born: 1580 or 1581
Died: September 8, 1654
Canonized: January 15, 1888, by Pope Leo XIII
Feast Day: September 9
Patron Saint of: African-Americans, Colombia, missions, Negro missions
Peter was born on a farm near Barcelona. He attended the University of Barcelona and graduated at the age of 20. Upon graduation, he entered a Jesuit novitiate and was sent to Montesione College on the island of Majorca where he met a humble gatekeeper named Alphonsus. This Jesuit gatekeeper became Peter's personal counselor uninterrupted for some three years. It was unknown to the world, and even to the College Jesuits, that Alphonsus was a saint among them, Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez; had it been known, it was highly unlikely that Peter would have the personal attention. At the counsel of Alphonsus, Peter requested to join the missions of the New World and was sent to Cartagena, Colombia, an area that was under Spanish control. The Spanish at this time and at this place had but one thing on their minds - mining for riches. They were very cruel to the Indians, making slaves of them and forcing them to work in the mines. In an effort to speed up productivity, the Spanish started importing slaves from Africa. Considering that the African slaves were a very low-value commodity to the Spanish, they were treated accordingly. Many died on the journey due to the horrific conditions in the transport within the ships' holds. Upon seeing how the African slaves were treated, Peter was moved to declare himself "the slave of the Negroes forever", dedicating himself to their suffering. Peter was ordained in 1615, and immediately taking advantage of his increased influence, boldly moved to help the slaves. The Spanish reluctantly allowed Peter to care for the Negro slaves in the ships' holds upon their arrival, in the hospitals, and even in the mines. Peter reportedly baptized millions. While personally servicing the infected during the plague of 1650, Peter contracted the disease. After four years of immense suffering, Saint Peter Claver died in 1654.