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LAKE CHARLES — A Daytime Prayer Service honoring Saint Peter Claver, Patron of the Diocese of Lake Charles, is planned for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, September 11, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 3939 Lake Street. Everyone is invited.

Saint Peter Claver was chosen as the Patron Saint of the Diocese by the late Bishop Jude Speyrer, founding bishop.

All recipients of diocesan and papal honors are asked to attend wearing full regalia. Representatives of organizations from all church parishes in the Diocese are also invited and asked to attend in uniform. Students of all grade levels as well as families are encouraged to participate in the celebration. A reception will follow in the OLQH Family Life Community Center, 3939 Kingston Street.

History of Saint Peter Claver

Saint Peter Claver was born in Barcelona in modern day Spain in 1580. He joined the Society of Jesus, commonly called the Jesuits. After being influenced by Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, Peter Claver decided he wanted to be a missionary to what was then known as “The New World”. 

To that end, he continued his studies and was sent to the then called “New Granada” or modern-day Colombia and was ordained at Cartagena in 1615. Cartagena was the principal center of the African slave trade and Peter Claver spent his life trying to alleviate the horrible conditions of the slaves. He worked among the slaves in the yards where they were penned and ministered to them with food and medicine.  He was able to baptize some three thousand persons over his 40 years of ministry. However, his ministry did not just concern the souls of these unfortunates.

Peter Claver would visit the plantations and plead with owners of these slaves to improve their conditions of life and work. During these visits, he lodged with the slaves. In addition to his ministry to the slaves, Peter Claver visited the imprisoned and the lepers.  He was known as a great preacher and led a very austere life; he is reputed to have possessed supernatural gifts including that of prophecy, miracles, and the ability to read the hearts and minds of people.

In 1650, he was stricken with a plague that beset Cartagena but he did not neglect his duties even when mortally ill. He died on September 8 and was canonized in 1888. Pope Leo XIII named him the patron of all missionary activities to African-Americans. His feast day is September 9.

Since Bishop Speyrer’s choice of Peter Claver as Diocesan Patron, his feast is observed on the Sunday nearest to the actual feast day, thus allowing more of the faithful to attend and participate.

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