First Black Catholic Priest On His Way To Sainthood

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The first black Catholic priest ordained for the United States, who served in Chicago for several years, is one step closer to being named a “saint.”

The story of Fr. Augustus Tolton has been officially examined and approved by a historical commission at the Vatican which Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry describes as a “significant hurdle” to get over on the road to sainthood.

Bishop Perry believes that, by virtue of the approval of that historcal record, the “positio,” Tolton eventually will reach sainthood.

It still will literally take at least one, possibly two miracles.

“A lot of that depends, of course, if we can find an intervention of God for someone for which medicine cannot explain, a turnaround in health. We sent two candidates for that over and we’re hoping that at least one of them might be approved,” Bishop Perry said.

A theological commission will now examine the way Fr. Tolton led his life and another panel will seek to confirm miracles said to have happened because of people praying to Fr. Tolton. Bishop Perry says two possible miracles have been presented.  The bishop did not want to identify the people to whom those possible miracles occurred.

“It all depends on that miracle,” he said.

Fr. Tolton started St. Monica Church on the South Side in 1889 and died in Chicago in 1897 at the age of 43.

Bishop Perry said the Archdiocese of Chicago sent to Rome in 2014, 2,000 pages worth of documents on the life of Fr. Tolton.

To get to the point they are today, the bishop said six historical consultants looked at all of that material issued as a “heavily referenced” official story of Fr. Tolton’s life.  The archdiocese was told March 8 that the historical commission had approved the records sent from Chicago.

Bishop Perry said that, what makes Fr. Tolton a good candidate for sainthood, in his view, is that, “a lot of his life has to do with perseverance in a rather difficult time socially, the division among the races and the condition of American blacks, freed slaves, escaped slaves, people of color.”

The bishop said Fr. Tolton “was something of a pioneer in things like integration, bringing people together in a Christian community for which society, the Church just were not ready for.”

Bishop Perry said that, right now, the Vatican is examining 35 or 36 candidates for sainthood from the United States.

Learn more about Fr. Tolton in the book from the Josephite Pastoral Center.

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