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Former slave Fr Augustus Tolton moves one step closer to sainthood

Fr Tolton (Wikimedia)

Fr Tolton was the first African American diocesan priest

Fr Augustus Tolton has been named “venerable” after Pope Francis recognized his “heroic virtues,” moving him one step closer to sainthood.

Tolton was the first African American to be ordained a diocesan priest and could become the first African American saint.

Tolton’s cause for canonization was first announced in 2010 by Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George.

In 2012, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican granted Tolton the title “Servant of God” and in March of 2018, the Congregation reviewed the positio, the official document for Tolton’s cause, and unanimously approved his case to move forward.

Two miracles attributed to Tolton’s intercession have been forwarded to Rome in the hope that they will move his sainthood cause further along. Tolton needs two miracles to be approved by the Vatican to be canonized a saint.

Tolton was born on April 1, 1854 in Missouri. Born a slave, he fled with his mother and siblings to freedom at the age of 9.

He grew up in Quincy, Illinois, and frequently served at Mass. Feeling a call to the priesthood, Tolton sought to attend seminary, but was not accepted to any seminary in the United States due to his race.

After going to Rome to study, Tolton was ordained on April 24, 1886 and was sent back to the United States to serve as a missionary.

Tolton was asked to move to Chicago to minister to the black community there, and in 1889 he began his ministry there.

Known for working tirelessly for his parish and congregation, he brought many to the Church.

Tolton died of heat stroke on July 8, 1897 at the age of 43.