Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, was the main celebrant at a Mass of Thanksgiving honoring Venerable Rev. August Tolton at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 at St. Philip Neri Church, 2132 E. 72nd St., Chicago. The Mass celebrated Pope Francis’ June 11, 2019 declaration of Tolton as “Venerable.” He is the first African American priest to receive this designation, a step toward possible sainthood.
“Our Mass of Thanksgiving will be a celebration of the holy life of Fr. Tolton,” said Cupich. “He is a hero who overcame extreme racism, and left behind a legacy of humility, suffering, immense faith, charity and service to the Lord and the Church. We must continue to honor his life and legacy by treating each other with respect and reflecting God’s love.”
The promulgation of the decree by the pope declaring Tolton “Venerable” means his life was formally recognized as one living the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance at a heroic level. Tolton is two steps away from possible sainthood. Once it is confirmed that one miracle has been granted by God through the intercession of Tolton, he will be declared “Blessed.” For canonization, a second miracle may be required. Tolton’s cause for canonization was announced by the late Francis Cardinal George, OMI, in March 2010.
“The touching story of Fr. Tolton reminds us of the glaring injustices of a former time,” said Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and diocesan postulator for the Tolton cause. “Much has improved since that time, but much remains to be done. Fr. Tolton’s example reminds us of the courage we must find within our hearts to work for racial and ethnic solidarity and to eradicate all forms of intolerance.”
Born the son of slaves in Missouri in 1854, Tolton, his mother and siblings escaped their slave holder and fled to Illinois in 1862. He graduated from St. Peter School in Quincy and studied for priesthood in Rome as no American seminary would accept a man of his race. Ordained in 1886 in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the Diocese of Alton, Ill. (now Springfield), he was the first African American diocesan priest in the United States.
To learn more about Tolton’s cause for sainthood, visit www.toltoncanonization.org.