top of page

September 9


Saint of the day:

Saint Peter Claver

Patron Saint of Colombia, interracial justice, slaves, race relations, ministry to African-Americans, seafarers

Saint Peter Claver's Story

A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena, a rich port city washed by the Caribbean. He was ordained there in 1615.

By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pope Pius IX, it continued to flourish.

Peter Claver’s predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.”

As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons, and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

Fr. Claver's apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.

After four years of sickness, which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, Claver died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.

Peter Claver was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.









Cartagena, Colombia

Church of San Pedro Claver, built in 1603, Cartagena, Colombia.





Colombian Empanadas (Empanadas Colombianas)



  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • Lime and ají for serving


  • 1 ½ cups precooked yellow cornmeal masarepa

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • ½ tablespoon sazon Goya with azafran

  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 2 cups peeled and diced white potatoes

  • 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon tablet

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • ¼ cup chopped white onions

  • 1 cup chopped tomato

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ cup chopped green onions

  • 1 chopped garlic clove

  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • ½ pound ground pork and beef


  1. To prepare the dough: Place the masarepa in a large bowl. Add the sazon Goya and salt and stir to mix well. Add the water and oil and mix to form dough. Pat the dough into a ball and knead for 2 minutes or until smooth. Cover with plastic and set aside for 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, to make the filling, cook the potatoes in a pot with water and the bouillon tablet for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Drain and gently mash the potatoes. Set aside.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, green onions, garlic, bell pepper, cilantro, salt and black pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes.

  4. Add the ground pork and beef. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is fairly dry.

  5. Transfer the meat mixture to the mashed potatoes bowl and mix well to combine.

  6. Break small portions of the dough, about 1 ½ tablespoons each one, and form each portion into a ball by rolling between the palms of your hands.

  7. Place the balls of dough between two pieces of plastic and roll each out very thinly to form a circle. Remove the top plastic and place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each.

  8. Then using the plastic underneath, fold the dough over to enclose the filling, forming a half circle. Tightly seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork.

  9. Fill a large pot with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 360° F.

  10. Carefully place 3 or 4 empanadas at the time in the heated oil and fry for about 2 minutes until golden on all sides.

  11. Using a slotted spoon transfer the empanadas to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with ají and lime on the side.

bottom of page