Venerable Pierre Toussaint, 1766–1853
Venerable Pierre Toussaint was a slave. He was born in Haiti. Pierre was taught to read by his grandmother. When he was a slave, his owner Mr. Berard, recognizing his intelligence, opened his library to Pierre. When Berard’s family moved to New York City, they brought Pierre with them. Pierre became a barber. He helped support Mrs. Berard after Mr. Berard died. Pierre always loved Jesus. He went to Mass every day. As he walked to church, he would greet everyone he met. He helped build St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a big church in New York City. He wanted a beautiful place for people to celebrate the Eucharist. After he died, many people gathered to talk about how good and holy he was.
Pierre was well respected by the members of many important families of New York City. He offered them his advice, which was unheard of during this time period. They called him “Our Saint Pierre.”
He and his wife made a home for orphans, set up a school for them, and arranged for them to be taught a trade. They also secured freedom papers for dozens of slaves and found jobs for poor French widows, and made secret gifts to aristocratic refugees who would be too proud to accept charity.
Pierre is the unofficial patron of barbers and hairdressers. He was the first layperson to be buried below the main altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He attended Mass daily for 66 years.
Discuss: Have you ever been to Mass on a day that wasn’t Sunday?
Tell the children that Venerable Pierre Toussaint went to Mass every day.
• Have the child write out a week-long calendar with boxes to fill in their schedule. Beginning with Sunday, in the box, write Mass. For the remainder of the days have them write what they will do each day as an act of worship.
• Ask the child to share their plan.