Immigrants And Refugees
Public Statement

Remembering Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Pierre Toussaint. Photo credit: Wikicommons

In honor of Black History Month, we remember the Venerable Pierre Toussaint — the founder of Catholic Charities of New York — whose legacy lives on today in our work of providing help and creating hope for New Yorkers in need.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) was born a slave in Haiti and died a freeman in New York City. He was instrumental in raising funds for the first Catholic orphanage and began the city’s first school for black children. He is credited with being the founder of Catholic Charities of New York. He is one of the six African American Catholics with an open cause for sainthood and is the only layperson buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint’s legacy lives on today through namesake, the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund, which creates greater access to opportunity through education for Black students and their communities.

Established in 1983, the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund (PTSF) is administered by the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Black Ministry. It provides scholarships to graduating high school seniors of diverse backgrounds from public, private, and parochial schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York, to assist them with the educational fees and expenses associated with their college studies.

In addition to academic excellence, the scholars are actively involved in their parish communities and in serving others in their neighborhood and campus communities. The program mentors and supports college student-leaders spiritually, professionally, and personally.

“PTSF is unique because, in addition to the financial support given to our college student leaders that we refer to as ‘Scholars,’ we make sure to also provide ongoing mentorship and advisement that is spiritual and practical regarding their education and career opportunities,” said Leah Dixon, Associate Director of the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund and Program.

“The program was life-changing. I started when I was in high school,” said Elise Milius, an alumna who graduated from St. Barnabas High School in the Bronx and Macaulay Honors College at Lehman College.

“It has helped me professionally, personally and spiritually. It’s a significantly important program that grounds you in your faith,” said Ms. Milius.

From stocking food pantries and planting gardens to meal packing for distribution to people in need, Pierre Toussaint scholars also actively volunteer across Catholic Charities of New York’s agencies. Through their service to the community, the scholars carry on Venerable Pierre Toussaint’s legacy of providing help to others.

During Black History Month, we honor Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a man who was proud of his faith and committed to serving others.

With gratitude, 

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan

Executive Director