St Martin De Porres Graymoor Statue

Statue of St. Martin De Porres can be seen on the grounds of Graymoor.


February marks Black History Month in the United States. Often, the secular world remembers inventors, sports heroes and other African-Americans who achieved renown. We must also remember those who loved God and their neighbor as the Lord commanded — people who triumphed through adversity and shared the Gospel.

The Catholic Church is blessed with several African-American saints and others on their way to sainthood. One day the following African-Americans could have an “St.” before their names: Venerable Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Henriette DeLille, Venerable Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Julie Greely and Sr. Thea Bowman.


Two Saints

Two of the most recognizable Black saints are St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Martin de Porres. Even though they hailed from different continents (Africa and South America), they both loved God above everything and overcame persecution with perseverance and love.

Born in 1869, St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped around the age of seven from her village in Sudan. Eventually, she was brought to Italy where she would become a nanny for a wealthy Italian family. In Italy, she finally received her freedom and desired more than anything to become Catholic. On December 8, 1896, she professed her vows as a Canossian Sister. She would spend the next 14 years as a religious sister engaging in simple household tasks. “More and more, I came to appreciate God’s goodness to me,” she said. St. Josephine Bakhita died of natural causes at the age of 78.

Nearly 300 years before St. Josephine Bakhita was born, St. Martin de Porres was born in Peru as the illegitimate son to a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave from Panama. Persecuted for being of mixed race, St. Martin de Porres eventually became a Dominican brother. Like St. Josephine Bakhita, Martin performed obscure tasks like laundry and cleaning. He died at the age of 60 after a year of illness.


Book Recommendations From the Friars of the Atonement

As the season of Lent is upon us, we seek to follow in the footsteps of these holy men and women  by conforming ourselves completely to Christ. 

We recommend these books on your journey:

  • Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Illibagiza
    During the Rwandan genocide, Immaculee and seven other women hid in a cramped bathroom for 91 days while their attackers sought to kill them. Her story is one of forgiveness and courage. “Forgiveness is all I have to offer,” wrote Immaculee when she came face to face with the man who murdered her family.
  • Hope: An Invitation by Sr. Josephine Garret CSFN
    Sr. Josephine invites us to move forward amidst life’s most challenging circumstances. Above all, one must hope in God and not the things of the world, and this hope must radiate to all we meet.
  • Amazed by Grace: Overcoming Racial Divides by the Power of the Holy Spirit by Larry Oney
    Deacon Oney endured years of adversity and racial prejudice as a Black man in Louisiana until his life was changed by a white woman. This is a story about turning from resentment toward hope.

Visit Us

You’ll find these books and many other inspirational tomes in our gift shop. While you’re at Graymoor, take the time to walk our sacred grounds, see our statue of St. Martin Porres and relish solitude with God.