Rev Augustus Tolton

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Rev Augustus Tolton

Ralls County, Missouri, USA
Death 9 Jul 1897 (aged 43)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Burial Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 7374321 View Source
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Religious Figure. He is recognized as the first ordained African-American Roman Catholic priest in the United States. Born a slave, John Augustus Tolton was raised in Quincy, Illinois after he and his mother and siblings escaped from slavery in Missouri. He began studying for the priesthood in 1873, and though initially refused admission at local seminaries, was eventually able to attend Quincy College and complete his studies in Rome, Italy. Father Augustus Tolton was ordained on April 24, 1886, as the first known and recognized Black priest in the United States of America. Returning to the United States, he ministered for two years as pastor of the racially mixed St. Joseph's Church in Quincy, IL. He was most attentive to the spiritual and human needs of his people. Soon his Masses and instruction classes gained prominence, and he was asked to attend and speak at many public gatherings. He quickly gained a reputation as a fine preacher, so much so that many of the German and Irish Catholics began to attend Mass with the Black Catholics. Tolton's increasing popularity unleashed both hidden racism and the jealousy of both Catholic and non-Catholic ministers in the area. Upon being forced to leave his home in Quincy because of racial hostility,Tolton settled in Chicago and founded St. Monica's Church (later St. Elizabeth's), the first Black Catholic Church in Chicago. St. Monica's became Chicago's center of Black Catholic life for more than 30 years. Tolton continued to be well known there and nationally, speaking at numerous gatherings and lectures, including the First Catholic Colored Congress in Washington, D.C., in 1889. As he stepped from the train at 35th Street Lake Park returning from the annual retreat of Chicago priests in Bourbonnais, Illinois on an excessively hot day in July of 1897 Tolton was stricken by a heat-related stroke and rushed to Mercy hospital. He died that night at the age of 43. After Tolton's death, St. Monica's was made a mission of St. Elizabeth's Church. It was permanently closed as a national parish in 1924, as black Catholics chose to attend parish churches in their own neighborhoods. Tolton was honored in 2010 with a new Catholic high school (Father Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School) named after him in Columbia, Missouri. On June 2019, Pope Francis declared Augustus Tolton as "Venerable" advancing his cause of canonization for sainthood.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Curtis Jackson
  • Added: 22 Apr 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7374321
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Augustus Tolton (1 Apr 1854–9 Jul 1897), Find a Grave Memorial ID 7374321, citing Saint Peter's Cemetery, Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .