Peter Joseph Triest - Belgium

Founder of the following, Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, (1803),  Brothers of Charity (1807),  Brothers of St John of God (1825) and Sisters of the Childhood of Jesus (1835).

Peter Joseph Triest was born in Brussels in 1760. When he was ordained, the region that is known as Belgium today was living through very turbulent times. One regime followed after another, and after the French Revolution the Church was also facing difficult times. From 1797 until 1802 young Father Triest was forced live in hiding, and to perform his priestly duties clandestinely. However, that period turned out very fruitful, since it was precisely around that time that Triest developed the desire to help other people. Moved by Jesus' words: "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Mt. 25, 40), he started devoting more and more of his time to the poor. Having been transferred to the parish of Lovendegem in 1803, he founded his first congregation within the first few months after his arrival: The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. Their duty was to take care of outcasts and poor children.

In 1806 he was appointed as member of the Poor Relief Committee in Ghent. It was in that function that his pastoral inspiration started to really grow. He devoted practically all his time to the elderly, the poor, the mentally ill, and to foundlings or, in other words, to those in whom society did not seem to take any interest. In 1807 he founded the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity. The Brothers' duties consisted primarily in nursing the impoverished elderly and mental patients. In 1825 he founded the Brothers of St John of God who had to nurse the poor in their homes. One year before he died, in 1835, he founded the Sisters of the Childhood of Jesus who had to look after foundlings.

In the course of that 30-year period during which Triest helped to organise poor relief in Ghent, he had started a veritable revolution. One of his more remarkable was certainly when he had the mentally ill who were locked up in Gerard the Devil's Castle delivered from their chains. But according to him it was essential to deliver God's message of Redemption and Salvation to the people whom he met along his path of life. And he would do so by giving them signs of love. His efforts turned out successful. Peter Joseph Triest, Canon of St Bavon's Cathedral in Ghent, died in 1836. His last words were: "Give and it shall be given unto you," which is a nice summary of his life, which had been one great gift to the people of God. In 2001 the Process of Canonisation was started.

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