Born at Verdu, Catalonia, in Spain, St Peter Claver studied
at the University of Bologna and became a Jesuit. He was
ordained at Cartagena in South America, where for forty-four
years he was the Apostle of the negro slaves. Cartagena became
the chief slave mart of the New World. A thousand slaves
landed there each month. Neither the repeated censures of the
Pope, nor those of Catholic moralists could prevail against this
cupidity. The missionaries could not suppress slavery, but only
alleviate it, and no one worked more heroically than Peter
He became a daring and ingenious organizer. Every month
when the arrival of the negroes was signaled, St. Peter Claver
went out to meet them on the pilot’s boat, carrying food and
delicacies. The negroes cooped up in the hold, arrived crazed
and brutalized by suffering and fear. St. Peter Claver went to
each, cared for him, and showed him kindness, and made him
understand that henceforth he was his defender and father. He
thus won their good will. To instruct so many speaking different
dialects, St. Peter Claver assembled at Cartagena a group of
interpreters of various nationalities, of whom he made
catechists. While the slaves were penned up at Cartagena
waiting to be purchased and dispersed, St. Peter Claver
instructed and baptized them in the Faith. During his life he
baptized and instructed in the Faith more than 300,000 negroes.
He was beatified 16 July, 1850 by Pius IX, and canonized 15
January, 1888, by Leo XIII. On 7 July, 1896, he was proclaimed
the special patron of all the Catholic missions among the