The Vatican released news on several candidates for sainthood yesterday. Among many American Catholics attention is given to one in particular whose life was discussed in our book Worthwhile Struggle.
“The decrees advance the causes of the following eight individuals on their path to eventual sainthood by declaring:
– the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Augustine Tolton, Diocesan Priest; born in Brush Creek (United States of America) on April 1, 1854 and died in Chicago (United States of America) on July 9, 1897;
This is a critical step in the Canonization process for the African American Priest. Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of Fr. Tolton making him “venerable” within the Church, only two steps away from canonization. With the decree, Catholics are now authorized to pray directly to Tolton as an intercessor before God.
Below is our coverage of Father Tolton in Worthwhile Struggle by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2019 by Sporting Chance Press.
“On April 1, 1854, Augustus Tolton was born in Brush Creek, Rails County, Missouri. His parents were slaves. He was baptized at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Brush Creek. The Toltons fled to Illinois because it was a free state. They worked in a cigar factory in Quincy. Thanks to Father McGirr, during the winter months, when the tobacco factory was closed, Augustus attended Saint Peter’s School. Then some priests taught him directly.
“Augustus graduated from Saint Francis Solanus College which is now Quincy University. Then he attended the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome where he studied Greek and Latin and became fluent in Italian. On April 24, 1886, Holy Saturday, he was ordained a priest. The following day he celebrated his first Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Easter day. He was directed to return to the United States and serve the black community. Before arriving in the States, he said Mass at several of the great cathedrals and shrines of Europe. His first Mass on American soil was at St. Benedict the Moor parish church located at Bleeker and Downing Streets in New York City. He organized Saint Joseph Catholic Church and School in Quincy.
After Father Tolton had been assigned to Chicago, he was the pastor of Saint Monica’s Catholic Church at 36th and Dearborn Streets on the South Side of Chicago. His sermons were eloquent; his singing was beautiful; and he played the accordion. His example of faithfulness and forgiveness inspired many other black men to enter seminaries.
“On July 9, 1897, Father Tolton died in Chicago. As he had requested, he was buried at Saint Peter’s Cemetery in Quincy.
On March 2, 2010, Francis Cardinal George began the quest to have Father Tolton declared a saint. On February 24, 2011, Cardinal George assigned Bishop Joseph Perry to do the research. Bishop Perry was obedient. On December 10, 2016, Father Tolton’s remains were exhumed; it was part of the canonization process. An icon of Fr. Tolton was commissioned by Bishop Perry and created by Chicago iconographer, Joseph Malham of Trinity Icons.
Since exhumation is part of canonization, I am not interested in cremation.
“On November 5, 2017, a play about his life, “Tolton: From Slave to Priest,” was at the DuSable Museum Institute Theater on the South Side of Chicago. Bishop Perry did the welcome. Marist High School Senior Peyton Ashford said the opening prayer. Andrae Goodnight played Father Tolton. Elissa Sanders played his mother, Martha Jane Tolton. Michael Lee played Father McGirr. Leonardo Defilippis of Saint Luke Productions was the director. It was magnificent.”
For more on Trinity Icons image of Father Tolton.
For more on Worthwhile Struggle.