Loading
Chicago archdiocese opens canonization cause for first African-American priest
 Fr. Augustus Tolton.
Fr. Augustus Tolton.

.- Fr. Augustus Tolton, a man born into slavery who became the first American diocesan priest of African descent, is now being considered for canonization. Cardinal Francis George announced on Monday that the nineteenth century priest’s cause for sainthood has been introduced in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“Many Catholics might not ever have heard of Fr. Augustus Tolton; but black Catholics most probably have,” the Archbishop of Chicago wrote.

Born in Missouri on April 1, 1854, John Augustine Tolton fled slavery with his mother and two siblings in 1862 by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.

"John, boy, you're free. Never forget the goodness of the Lord," Tolton’s mother told him after the crossing, according to the website of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Chicago.

The young Tolton entered St. Peter’s Catholic School with the help of the school’s pastor, Fr. Peter McGirr. Fr. McGirr would later baptize him and instruct him for his first Holy Communion. Tolton was serving as an altar boy by the next summer.

The priest asked Tolton if he would like to become a priest, saying it would take twelve years of hard study.

The excited boy then said they should go to church and pray for his success.

After graduating from high school and Quincy College, he began his ecclesiastical studies in Rome because no American seminary would accept him on account of his race.

On April 24, 1886 he was ordained in Rome by Cardinal Lucido Maria Parocchi, who was then the vicar general of Rome. Newspapers throughout the U.S. carried the story.

Fr. Tolton was ordained for the southern Illinois Diocese of Quincy. Upon his return in July 1886, he was greeted at the train station “like a conquering hero,” the web site of St. Elizabeth’s Parish says.

“Thousands were there to greet him, led by Father McGirr. A brass band played church songs and Negro Spirituals. Thousands of blacks and whites lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the new priest wearing a black Prince Albert and a silk hat.  People marched and cheered his flower-draped four-horse carriage.  Children, priests and sisters left the school joining the procession heading towards the church.”

Hundreds waited at the local church where people of all races knelt at the communion rail.

Fr. Tolton served in Quincy before going to Chicago to start a parish for black Catholics. The new church was named for St. Monica and opened in 1893.

On July 9, 1897 Fr. Tolton collapsed during a hot day and died from sunstroke at the age of 43. Cardinal George explained that most priests in the nineteenth century died before their fiftieth birthday.

“Visiting the sick on a daily basis was risky in an age before antibiotics,” he explained.

The priest was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery just outside of Quincy, Illinois.

An investigation for canonization will collect evidence of Fr. Tolton’s heroic virtues and will investigate claims of his miraculous intercession.


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
25

Liturgical Calendar

April 25, 2014

Friday within the Octave of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Jn 21:1-14

Gospel
Date
04/25/14
04/24/14
04/23/14

Daily Readings


Saint of the Day

St. Mark, the Evangelist »

Saint
Date
04/24/14

Homily of the Day

Jn 21:1-14

Homily
Date
04/25/14
04/24/14
04/23/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: