Portraits of Black, Indigenous and People of Color Saints and Leaders to Adorn Walls of Historic NYC Church


The Church of St. Francis Xavier, located at 46 W. 16th St. in New York City, has commissioned new works of art for the walls of the historic church — portraits of BIPOC Saints and leaders — who better reflect the community inside and outside.

Created by renowned local artist Patricia Brintle, the paintings will be officially presented and blessed at masses the weekend of June 11th and 12th.

Saints and holy people to be represented include:

St. Josephine Bakhita, formerly enslaved woman from Sudan at the turn of the century, who later became a nun. She traveled to prepare other sisters before they went to Africa. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and is the Patron Saint of Sudan.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz – born to a Chinese father and Filipina mother who were both Catholic. He arrived in Okinawa in 1636 and was swiftly arrested and tortured by the Tokugawa Shogunate which persecuted Christians in an effort to stem colonialization. He is the Patron Saint of Migrants.

St. Rose de Lima – Rose overcame her family’s opposition to her life choice and cared for the sick and poor in her room at her parent’s home.  She also sold lace and embroidery she sewed to help her family and fund good works.  She is Patron Saint of The Americas and Peru.

Blessed Pierre Toussaint, born enslaved in Haiti in 1776, venerated for great and generous acts of charity throughout his life.  Also helped to create the Old Saint Patrick Cathedral on Mulberry Street, the original Cathedral of the Archdiocese of New York.  Toussaint is buried under the altar of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.  He is on a path to Sainthood.

Others whose portraits will be featured are: St. Oscar Romero, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Charles Lwanga, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Sister Thea Bowman, St. Anre Dung Lac, Mother Mary Lange, and Sister Rani Maria Vattalil.

The Xavier Art Project, the group spearheading the initiative, solicited proposals in late 2020 from artists interested in creating images of saints and holy women and men of color.  Working with the pastor and church staff, they determined the locations in the church where this art could live. The parish community weighed in on the imagery, and the artist who was ultimately chosen worked for months to create these pieces.