On September 29, 2014, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago held a prayer service in which he formally sealed the dossier local research aimed at making Father Augustus Tolton, the first recognized U.S. diocesan priest of African descent, a saint. The cause was originally opened by Cardinal George in 2010.
With the conclusion of this prayer service, the cause for Father Tolton’s canonization was officially sent to the Vatican, where all documents collected in support of his canonization will be reviewed and evaluated by theologians and, hopefully, passed onto Pope Francis, who will make the final determination.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry claims that, “Everything in the record of the case demonstrates that we had a saint among us and we hardly noticed. Father Tolton leaves behind a shining example of perseverance.”
Born in 1854, Fr. Augustus Tolton was born a slave on a plantation in Missouri. His father left in an attempt to join the Union Army during the Civil War and in 1862, his mother was lucky to escape with her three children and settle in Quincy, Illinois. After Tolton graduated from St. Francis Catholic School and moved onto St. Francis College, Franciscan Priests encouraged him to discern his vocation to the priesthood. However, no seminary in the U.S. would accept him. Eventually, Fr. Tolton moved to Rome and was ordained for the Propaganda Fidei Congregation in 1886. After this, he was sent back to Quincy, Illinois and served for three years, becoming the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, before moving to the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 1894, Fr. Tolton took the lead in building the St. Monica Church for Black Catholics.
Many Catholics throughout the Diocese of Arlington are actively engaged in praying for the cause of canonization for Fr. Tolton – join us and look for updates on our webpage; www.arlingtondiocese.org/multicultural.