Venerable Pierre, 1778-1853. Born in Haiti, died in New York City.
was a slave for Berard family in Haiti but left with them for new
York City during tje slave revolts of the 1790s.
Soon after their arrival in New York, the
Berards lost their property, in Haiti's revolution, monsieur Berard
died and his wife, Marie Elizabeth was reduced to poverty.
Toussaint trained as a hairdresser, developped
a clientele among the richest women of New York and became the sole
support of the household.
Marie Elizabeth, who was devoted to the
dignified, discreet Toussaint, gave him his freedom in 1807, and
in 1811 he married Juliette Gaston, a fellow Haitian.
The Toussaints were childless but adopted
a niece (her death at the age of fourteen plunged Toussaint into
a lengthy depression). They also cared for abandoned boys, taking
them into their home, educating them, and finding them jobs.
Pierre gave away a substantial part of his
considerable income to the poor, telling a friend who urged him
"I have enough for myself, but if I stop working I have not enough
Toussaint also cared for the sick, sometimes
bringing them to his home and repeatedly, during one yellow fever
epidemic, crossing the barricades of a deserted steet to visit an
For sixty years, he attended daily Mass
at six in the morning at St. Peter's on Barclay Street. He frequently
qoted the Beatitudes and The Imitation of Christ and delicately
provided spiritual guidance to his wealthy clients, urging them
to pray and submit their anxieties to God.
He was " …full in the faith of his church,
" a contemporary said, "liberal, enlightened and always acting from
the principle that God is our common Father and mankind our brethren.
Toussaint never recovered from the death
of Juliette in 1851, and died on June 30, two years later. His last
words were " God is with me " and then, when asked if he wanted
anything, " Nothing on earth. "
He is buried in a crypt behind the main
altar at St. Patrick's cathedral in New York city.