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  • Writer's pictureAbbie Lamphere

Saint Peter Claver: Slave of the Slaves

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Peter Claver was born into a devoutly Catholic family in the Spanish town of Verdu. From a young age, he showed a deep interest in religion and helping those in need. At the age of 20, he joined the Jesuit order, where he was encouraged to do missionary work in the Americas.

In 1610, Claver arrived in Cartagena, which was a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade, and thousands of enslaved Africans were brought there under horrifying conditions. Moved by the suffering he witnessed, Claver decided to dedicate his life to helping these vulnerable individuals. He would board slave ships as soon as they arrived in the harbor, bringing food, fresh water, and medicine to the enslaved Africans who had endured horrific conditions during the voyage.


For forty years, Peter Claver dedicated his life to helping the slaves arriving in Cartagena, both physically and spiritually. He taught the slaves about Christ and gave them the sacraments. He traveled to various plantations to urge the owners to be kind to these slaves and to treat them with dignity and respect. He stayed in the slave quarters during these visits instead of in the plantation homes.


It is estimated that Peter Claver baptized 300,000 slaves during his work in Colombia. He continued to follow up with those that he baptized to ensure that they were being treated with respect and dignity. His tireless efforts earned him the nickname "Slave of the Slaves."


Saint Peter Claver passed away on September 8, 1654, after more than 40 years of service in Cartagena. His legacy lives on as an inspiring example of selflessness and compassion. In 1888, Pope Leo XIII canonized him as a saint.


Saint Peter Claver's life is a testament to the power of compassion and the impact one individual can have in the fight for justice and equality. His dedication to serving the enslaved Africans in Cartagena serves as a shining example for all of us, reminding us that we can make a positive difference in the world by showing kindness and empathy to those in need, regardless of their background or circumstances. Saint Peter Claver's legacy continues to inspire people around the world to work towards a more just and compassionate society.

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