Major NY thoroughfare co-named in honour of Haitian saint Pierre ToussaintSaturday, May 01, 2021
NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A Haitian-born legislator in New York has co-named a major thoroughfare in Brooklyn in honour of Haitian patron saint, renowned Haitian philanthropist and founder of Catholic Charities, the Venerable Pierre Toussaint, who emerged from slavery to sainthood.
Council member Dr Mathieu Eugene, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 40th Council District in Brooklyn, has partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, New York to co-name Church Avenue in Brooklyn Pierre Toussaint Boulevard.
In 2019, Dr Eugene, the first Haitian to be elected to New York City Council, sponsored legislation in the City Council, Intro 1631, to co-name Church Avenue as Pierre Toussaint Boulevard.
Earlier this week, Eugene, a candidate for Brooklyn Borough president, was joined by Catholic clergy, elected officials, immigration advocates and other officials at the co-naming ceremony.
“Pierre Toussaint was a renowned Haitian philanthropist, humanitarian, and founder of Catholic Charities in New York City,” Eugene told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) afterwards. “His dedication to humanity and his ability to help those in need was a cornerstone of our city's history, and his legacy is a testament to the historical significance that our immigrant community has served in the founding of the United States.”
“Today is a momentous occasion; it is a great event,” Eugene told the ceremony. “We are all here to pay tribute to a wonderful human being.”
The councilman said that when he looks at the life of Pierre Toussaint, he feels “empowered and inspired, because he was enslaved and came to this country as an immigrant like myself”.
“When you are an immigrant, you come to the United States because it is a great country, a country of opportunities,” added. “But people will face a lot of challenges when you are an immigrant.”
As a slave, Eugene said Pierre Toussaint didn't give up, becoming “a venerable person because of what he has done as a human being for New York City and for immigrants”.
“For those who were poor and for those who needed shelter, and for those who needed food, he did exactly what Jesus said to do — to be your brothers' keeper,” he said.
“Pierre Toussaint opened his door for those who needed shelter,” Eugene added. “When you see that someone who was a slave bought the freedom of other people, this is something remarkable.”
Toussaint was born a slave in 1766 in the French colony of Saint Domingue, which is modern-day Haiti.
His great-grandmother, Tonette, was born in Africa and sold into slavery in the Caribbean.
Toussaint worked as a house slave inside a plantation owned by one Jean Berard.
When political unrest enveloped Saint Dominque in 1787, Toussaint's master sent his wife to New York for safekeeping. Pierre and his sister, Rosalie, were sent along.
In New York, Toussaint was allowed to train as a hairdresser; but, after his master died, Toussaint committed to taking care of himself, his master's widow and the other house slaves.
His master's widow died in 1807; and, shortly after her death, her second husband freed Toussaint to satisfy a promise made to his widow prior to her death.
Toussaint then purchased the freedom of his sister, Rosalie; and, in 1811, that of a young lady, Juliette Noel, who was 20 years his junior and who later became his wife.
Eugene said Toussaint and his wife devoted their lives to helping the poor and needy in New York City, working hand-in-hand in aiding refugees in finding jobs and raising funds for several orphanages.
A staunch member of the Catholic Church, Toussaint was one of the benefactors of the multi-national Catholic School in New York City called St. Vincent de Paul.
Toussaint helped to raise funds to build the Old St Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
He died Jun. 30, 1853 at 87, two years after the death of his wife, Juliette.
Years after Toussaint's death, several groups and individuals started to advocate for consideration for sainthood for Toussaint.
In 1991, New York Cardinal John O'Connor sent the necessary documents to the Vatican; and, five years later, Toussaint he was named venerable by Pope John Paul II.
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