People join hands during an April 25, 2016, interfaith prayer service for peace at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. CNS Photo/Kevin J. Parks

September 9th is the Memorial of St. Peter Claver, who ministered to enslaved Africans. St. Peter Claver was a Jesuit priest from Catalonia who served African slaves in Cartagena, Colombia for thirty-eight years, baptizing over 300,000.  He died in 1654 and was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.  He called himself “the slave of the slaves forever” and is a patron saint of African Americans and of enslaved peoples. The Feast of St. Peter Claver is an occasion for heightened prayer and action to strive for peace in our communities.

In Open Wide Our Hearts, the pastoral letter against racism, the bishops issued an urgent call for conversion. “What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions and society. Conversion is a long road to travel for the individual. Moving our nation to a full realization of the promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all is even more challenging. However, in Christ we can find the strength and the grace necessary to make that journey” (p. 4).  In The Sacrament of Charity Pope Benedict XVI spoke eloquently of the power of the Eucharist to bring about “a newness to our social relations” leading to “a determination to transform unjust structures and to restore respect for the dignity of all men and women, created in God’s image and likeness” (no. 89).   

The Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism has developed a number of resources to assist Catholics in praying for conversion and transformation regarding racism in our communities, country, and the world: a prayer service, papal statements about St. Peter Claver, and liturgical resources. These resources, in addition to the full library of resources, can help parishes and individuals engage in prayer and reflection on September 9th and throughout the year.

Resources and Materials