Saint of the Month: The cause for sainthood of Reverend Augustus Tolton

The cause for canonization of The Servant of God Reverend Augustus Tolton, the first African American to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest for the United States, has taken another step forward with the approval from the Vatican’s historical commission of the positio. This approval certifies the historical record of the case are correct, an important step in the process for canonization. The cause, which was opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2011, is scheduled to go before the Vatican’s theological commission in February 2019.

“We are pleased with the outcome of the assessment thus far,” said Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and diocesan postulator for the Tolton cause. “We view the unanimous approval of the position as a very positive sign going forward.”

Born the son of slaves in Missouri, Fr. Tolton studied for priesthood in Rome as no American seminary would accept a man of his race. Ordained in 1886 for the Diocese of Alton, IL (now Springfield), he served his first three years as a priest in the city of Quincy at a Church for black Catholics. At the invitation of Archbishop Patrick Feehan, he came to Chicago in 1889 to labor among a small community of black Catholics, starting a new parish, St. Monica at 36th and Dearborn Streets. He led St. Monica Parish until his passing in 1897 at the age of 43.

The cause for canonization of Fr. Tolton is of significant historical importance for the African American Catholic community. “Fr. Tolton lived during a particularly tumultuous time in American history especially for race relations,” explained Bishop Perry. “He was a pioneer of his era for inclusiveness drawing both blacks and whites to his parish in Quincy. However, due to his race, he suffered discrimination and condemnation. The beatification and canonization of Fr. Tolton will signal a significant milestone in the history of black Catholicism in the United States.”

To learn more about Fr. Tolton’s cause for sainthood, visit toltoncanonization.org.

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