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Pierre Toussaint

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Venerable Pierre Tousaint
Pierre Toussaint.jpg
philanthropist, founder of Catholic charitable works in the United States
Born 1766, French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti)
Died June 30, 1853, New York City. New York, USA
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Old St. Patrick's cemetery, New York, New York
Feast June 30

Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766 – June 30, 1853) was born a Catholic slave in Haïti. His master taught him to read and write and he came to New York from Haiti in 1787. In New York, he became an apprentice to one of the city's leading hairdressers.

Pierre Toussaint quickly became a popular hairdresser. He was freed from slavery when his owner died in 1807 and later became quite wealthy. He fell in love with another slave, Juliette Noel, and purchased her freedom when she was only fifteen years old. Noel married Toussaint and together they set out to help those in need in New York City. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. Toussaint also funded money to build a new Roman Catholic church in New York, which became Old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street. After the death of his sister Rosalie, he and his wife adopted her daughter Euphemia and raised her as their own.

As Toussaint aged, he continued his charity. His wife, Juliette died in 1851. Two years later after his wife's death, Pierre Toussaint died on June 30, 1853, at the age of eighty-seven. He was buried alongside his wife and daughter, Euphemia in Old St. Patrick's on Mott Street. In 1941, his grave was discovered by the Rev. Charles McTague. In 1990, John Cardinal O'Connor, then Archbishop of New York had Toussaint exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Because of Toussaint's charity and piety, he was strongly supported for sainthood by O'Connor.

In 1996 Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood.

See also

Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  

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