ST. LOUIS – Six years ago, the Archdiocese of St. Louis launched their “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” enslaved persons project. The project researched the history of enslavement and uncovered the names of people enslaved by bishops and clergy of the church in the 19th century.

The project which released a 96 page report of findings, was self-initiated by the church and combines research from thousands of documents obtained from research institutions from around the world.

“We present the findings within this report with penitent hearts, so that we may begin the work of healing and continue to work toward the eradication of the sin of racism,” the document states.

The purpose of the report is to “promote open and honest access to historic record of enslavement within the local Catholic Church” and “promote community engagement and encourage dialog regarding the many legacies of slavery in the local community.”

The report identified the names of 99 enslaved people enslaved by Catholic clergy, 44 of them being enslaved to bishops and clergy.

The first three bishops at the church are documented to have had slaves are William DuBourg, Joseph Rosati, and Peter Kenrick.

“The Archdiocese of St. Louis regrets the harmful legacy of enslavement perpetuated by these past diocesan bishops and clergy,” the report states.

During the year 1818, Bishop William DuBourg came to St. Louis to build a new church. He was named bishop of a run-down log cathedral when St. Louis had very few residents. For St. Louis, the report says this new church was an important landmark; both Catholics and non-Catholics were in support and pledged money for the new construction.

Within these pledges, the report states the church was donated one person of color; her name was Flora. She was donated at a value of $1.20. Today that would be worth $29.68.

Dubourg ended up declaring Joseph Rosati as assistant to the bishop of the church that would later become the St. Louis Archdiocese.

The report details many exchanges between DuBourge and Rosati regarding enslaved people.

One exchange was a request from DuBourg to Rosati in regard to renting a woman the report identifies as 26-year-old “Rachel.”

Rachel was kept in St. Louis after DuBourg left for Louisana. She would take orders from a man named Father Edmund Saulnier. Saulneir sent letters to DuBourg about the physical abuse towards Rachel as punishment for her resistance to his orders.

Saulneir wrote in a letter to DuBourg, “I gave her blows with the Cowskin on her bare feet and arms. I assure you that it is very painful to me to do such things because it is not my place, but no one in the house wants to chastise her.”

The report also mentions segregation implemented at the Basilica of Saint Louis built by Bishop Rosati.

According to the report, people of color, who were likely free from slavery, were segregated in the Basilica downtown despite their contribution of funds toward the church.

The report states the many names of slaves identified in the records they uncovered and concludes by attributing those who were enslaved to the overall building of the church.

“The enslaved individuals identified in this report played a vital role in the building the local church from a small, frontier mission to a thriving archdiocese,” the report states. “Their efforts must be acknowledged, and their stories must be told. This work is not complete.”

The unidentified enslaved people within the report the committee is still working to identify, and there are still enslaved people yet to uncover whom will be added to the report as their research continues.

“In order to be fully penitent and reconcile ourselves before God, we must be open and honest about our sins, now and in the past. Only then can we truly see the forgiveness,” the reports concludes.