WELSH – The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, celebrated the Solemnity of Saint Peter Claver, the patron of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Sunday, September 8, in St. Joseph Catholic Church as he installed the new pastor for St. Joseph, the Reverend Gali Pradeep, a priest of the Heralds of Good News, a missionary society with a number of other clergy serving in the Diocese.
Bishop Provost introduced Father Pradeep to the parishioners and visitors in attendance. Members of the parish’s pastoral and finance councils as well as parish trustees were asked to come forward and Father Pradeep greeted each and promised to consult them to assure the well-being of the parish.
Following the Liturgy of the Word and Bishop Provost’s homily, Father Pradeep led the congregation in the Profession of Faith and, with his hand resting on Sacred Scripture, pronounced the Oath of Fidelity. Installing Father Pradeep on the Solemnity of St. Peter Claver showed the importance that Bishop Provost places on the diocesan patron, which was chosen as the Patron Saint by the late Bishop Jude Speyrer, founding Bishop.
A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena, a rich port city washed by the Caribbean. He was ordained there in 1615.
By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pope Pius IX, it continued to flourish.
Peter Claver’s predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.”
As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons, and tobacco. With the help of interpreters, he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.
Claver’s apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.
After four years of sickness, which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.|
He is also the Patron Saint of African Americans, African Missions, Colombia. comedians, communication workers, and Interracial Justice. Peter Claver was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron named him the patron of all missionary activities.