St. Benedict the Moor
Died: April 4, 1589
Canonized: 1807, by Pope Pius VII
Feast Day: April 4
Patron Saint of: African-Americans, Negro missions in North America
Also known as Benedict the Black and St. Benedict of San Philadelphio.
Benedict was born of African slaves to owners in San Fratello, Sicily. Benedict's parents were rewarded for their loyal service with freedom of their son at the age of 18. Benedict continued to work along side his family for meager wages and was quick to give what he had earned to those more needy and to the sick. When he was 21 years old, he gave up all of his earthly possessions and joined local hermits in Montepellegrino. In 1564, when Pope Pius IV disbanded the orders of hermits, Benedict moved to Palermo to the Franciscan Friar of Saint Mary. Benedict started at the Friary as a cook, but was soon elected guardian and then novice master - despite being completely illiterate. Benedict was widely respected for his deep, intuitive understanding of theology and scripture and was often sought after for counseling. He died at the age of 63, on the very day and hour he predicted.The Catholic Encyclopedia