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UPDATED: Bishop Guy Sansaricq dead at 86

Guy Sansaricq of Brooklyn, one of the nation's few Black Catholic bishops, died Saturday morning at the age of 86.

Brooklyn's retired auxiliary bishop Guy Sansaricq has died at the age of 86, according to the National Center for the Haitian Apostolate (the US organization he has led since 1987).

"Our wonderful and lovely [bishop], the apostle of the Haitian Apostolate and the icon of our clergy, went to God unexpectedly," reads a statement from Msgr Pierre André Pierre, vice director of the NCHA.

The news came just a few hours before he was scheduled to appear at an ecumenical prayer service in response to last Saturday's earthquake in his native Haiti, which killed at least 2,000.

Sansaricq was also scheduled to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his episcopal ordination the next day, August 22nd, and his birthday on October 6th.

Sansaricq was one of only a dozen active or retired Black Catholic bishops in the United States, and the only one to ever serve in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He immigrated to the country in 1971 to serve at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Cambria Heights, Queens (where he remained for 22 years).

He was born Jérémie, Haiti in 1934, where he attended the diocesan seminary and later St Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada. He was ordained in 1960.

His focus on immigrants and diaspora communities predates his time in the States, as his first post in Haiti involved ministry to Haitian immigrants in the Bahamas.

There, he worked at a Benedictine monastery during the time of Haitian dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who ruled the island nation from 1957 until 1971. In late 1964, Duvalier would murder 27 Haitians—including much of Sansaricq's extended family—in what is known as the "Jérémie Vespers".

One source says Sansaricq himself "was spared because he was a young priest".

Becoming an outspoken critic of the Duvalier regime, Sansaricq would go on to study in Rome, receiving a degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1971—the same year he was accepted into the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Later, after his elevation to the top post in the NCHA, he became pastor of St. Jerome's in Brooklyn in 1993. He was titled "Monsignor" by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999.

In 2006, Sansaricq was named Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, become the first and only Haitian prelate in United States history, though he only served for four years before submitting his resignation at the mandatory age of 75.

His bilingual ministry continued in Brooklyn and elsewhere, however, as he remained head of the NCHA and continued to reside in New York City.

Just last month, Sansaricq issued a statement on the assassination of Haiti's then-president Jovenel Moïse, seemingly only the beginning of the country's tragic summer.

In April, Sansaricq helped lead the ceremony marking the co-naming of Brooklyn's Church Street after Pierre Toussaint, the famed 19th-century Haitian-American philanthropist and current Black Catholic saint-to-be.

Concerning Toussaint, and in the presence of Sansaricq—two beloved figures of the Haitian-American diaspora—one of the event's speakers prophesied: "When you read about Pierre Toussaint, you will proclaim the reign of God on Earth and in Heaven".

Now, as the groundbreaking Black Catholic prelate begins his own heavenly sojourn, those who loved him have begun to proclaim as well.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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