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Will Father Augustus Tolton, Missouri-born, first African American priest in U.S., become a saint?

Father Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in Missouri in 1854 and would eventually become the first African-American priest in the United States, serving Quincy, Ill..

Father Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in Missouri in 1854 and would eventually become the first African American priest in the United States, serving Quincy, Ill..

Will Father Augustus Tolton, Missouri-born, first African American priest in U.S., become a saint?

By  Kelly Moffitt

Father Augustus Tolton was born into slavery just outside of Hannibal in Ralls County, Missouri in 1854. He would go on to become the first recognized African American priest to be ordained by the Roman Catholic Church in the United States in 1886 at the age of 31.

The road to that point in his life alone was tough. Rejected from every seminary he applied to in the United States because of the color of his skin, Tolton had to travel to Rome to study and become ordained. Although he initially expected to be sent to Africa as a missionary, he was surprisingly sent back to the Midwest to serve the African American community in Quincy, Ill. He would go on to serve in Chicago as well.

Tolton is being considered for sainthood. The formal canonization proceedings began in 2011 and continue today, waiting to be fully evaluated by the Vatican.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Auxillary Bishop Joseph Perry, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, joined the program to share information about the canonization process. Perry is the official guiding the process of canonization along, making the case for Tolton.

Also joining the program was Chuck Scholz, the former mayor of Quincy, Illinois, anattorney at Scholz and Scholz, LLP. His grandfather attended Tolton’s church, and Scholz also believes Tolton should be canonized.

     Augustus Tolton was the first openly-identified African American priest to serve the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. He was a former slave, born in Missouri. We look back on his life and the efforts being made today to canonize him as a saint on St. Louis on the Air.

“Canonization is the highest honor the Catholic Church can bestow upon a Christian,” Perry said. “It allows that person’s name to be invoked in an act of worship and allows that person’s name to be listed with the saints known worldwide and even locally where he has significance for certain groups of people.”

The process of research into Tolton’s life took four years, amounting to about 5,000 pages. Currently, various Vatican officials are putting together a “positsio,” a heavily-documented biography of Tolton’s life showing what made him an extraordinary Christian, which will be reviewed by a historical and theological commission. That “positsio” is expected to be completed by summer’s end.

After the review, a group of Cardinals will review the in-formation and provide their thoughts to the Pope on whether Tolton should be canonized. The pope will then decree Tolton had lived a virtuous life, making him a “venerable.”

There are two more stages that Tolton must pass to become a saint. First, “beatification,” which proves Tolton performed at least one miracle. And then, finally, sainthood, where two miracles must be proven.

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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