Pierre Toussaint: Pioneer in Brotherhood
In the French Caribbean colony of Santo Domingo, a young black slave, Pierre Toussaint, grows up on the eve of a violent revolution. Though Pierre has received a kindly upbringing with the Berard family, his observations of life have gained him painful insights. In 1787 the Berards, with 21-year-old Pierre, take refuge in New York City just as serious troubles begin to erupt on their island. When his master dies unexpectedly and family investments are lost, Pierre—the only man of their stranded household—quietly shoulders the financial responsibilities, covering for Madame Berard’s destitution. Trained as a hairdresser, Toussaint pays all the bills from his income and cultivates an atmosphere of dignity. As a baptized youth, he had learned to read and had pored over celebrated sermons from his master’s study. Now the wealthy New York ladies whose hair he dresses turn to Pierre, finding him the soul of wisdom in their perplexities. An inner freedom animates Pierre and he offers practical help to an ever-expanding circle of all ranks in life, becoming a well-known and revered figure in New York City. Today his Cause for Canonization is being promoted, and he is recognized as Venerable Pierre Toussaint.