Subject: Fr. Tolton, 1886 First African-American priest
Author: Claire Towle
Date:   3/3/2017 11:36 pm 
As we conclude Black History month, we look into the lives of African-American Catholics who overcame diversity and spread the Gospel of Christ even to those who hated them.

One of the greatest examples of this is the first ordained African American priest Fr. Augustine Tolton. Fr. Tolton was born into slavery on April 1, 1854. He and his family were able to escape slavery and fled to Illinois where his family then worked in a convenience store making cigars. It was during that time that Augustine met a priest in town named Fr. Peter McGirr. Fr. McGirr allow Augustine to study in his school which was controversial even to the point where his parishioners were asking Fr. Mcgirr to not allow an African American boy to study with their white children. Thankfully Fr. McGirr was not swayed by those voices and helped Augustine continue his studies when he was working.

When Augustine was old enough to enter seminary he applied to every seminary in the United States and thanks to the continued help of Fr. McGirr, Augustine was able to study at the Pontifical Urbaniana University. Augustine was ordained in 1886 and served the African-American community in Illinois.

Fr. Tolton first tried to organize a community of African-American faithful in the town of Quincy Illinois but that did not take off and so he tried opening a school for African-American boys but again, did not succeed. Fr. Tolton then tried organizing a church on the Southside of Chicago, named St. Monicaís. St. Monicaís grew quickly to 600 parishioners. The spread of the faith to the people of Chicago both black and white was in part due Fr. Toltonís eloquent sermons and beautiful voice.

Fr. Tolton died at the young age of 43, but his legacy lives on and his cause for canonization is underway. Fr. Tolton broke down barriers and showed that the Catholic Church is a universal church regardless of race, economic standing, or country of origin.
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 Fr. Tolton, 1886 First African-American priest    
Claire Towle 3/3/2017 11:36 pm 
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