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Pope Francis Advances Tolton’s cause for Sainthood

Tolton, the nation’s first African American priest, is among eight individuals whose heroic virtues were confirmed by Pope Francis

Pope Francis advanced the Cause for Sainthood of The Servant of God Rev. Augustus Tolton and seven others on June 11, 2019 by signing decrees issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints regarding eight causes for canonization. Tolton, a former slave and first African American diocesan priest in the United States, founded the first African American Catholic parish in Chicago.

Upon the promulgation of this decree by the pope, Tolton is deemed “Venerable,” which formally recognizes he lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance at a heroic level.

“We welcome this news from the Holy Father on the advancement of Fr. Tolton’s cause for sainthood,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago. “Fr. Tolton’s holiness comes from his patient suffering, his brave spirit and his pastoral heart for all who came to him. His struggles to become a priest and his remarkable service to God’s People are admirable examples, particularly in these times of the value and dignity of every person. I am grateful to Bishop Joseph N. Perry for his work as the diocesan postulator for the Tolton cause.”

Once it is confirmed that one miracle has been granted by God through the intercession of Tolton, he will be declared “Blessed.” A second miracle may be required for canonization.

Born the son of slaves in Missouri, Tolton 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 served his first three years as a priest in that diocese in Quincy at a church for Black Catholics. At the invitation of Archbishop Pat- rick Feehan, he came to Chicago in 1889 to labor among a small community of Black Catholics, later starting a new parish, St. Monica at 36th and Dearborn Streets. He led St. Monica Parish until his passing in 1897 at the age of 43 of a heatstroke.

To learn more about Tolton’s cause for sainthood, visit

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