Apr 2, 2018

Easter Sunday

Faithful Reflections

“Pray for Us, Father Tolton”
by Paula Leak St. Margaret Mary Parishioner

Augustus Tolton was born into slavery on April 1, 1854 in a small town near Hannibal, Missouri. His parents were slaves from Kentucky.

As the Civil War broke out in 1861 Gus's father snuck away to fight for freedom with the Union Army, never to be heard from again. Under the cover of night, Gus's mother, aided by a few slaves and Union soldiers, escaped across the Mississippi in a rowboat with her three children to Quincy, Illinois, a free state.

I first became aware of Father Tolton's story about 10 years ago, as I’m a Catholic from Quincy who married into a black family from Chicago. I learned what hard times Fr. Augustus and his family endured there.

I wondered and worried if any of my ancestors had racially abused Gus as he walked the streets of Quincy. I’d attended some of the Catholic churches and schools in Quincy that were prejudiced against him, and wondered if any of my ancestors had attended them as well. If so, might they have treated my son the same way as Gus had been treated? The thought broke my heart.

Augustus’ family prevailed in their faith, and so he made his first communion in 1870. Then 16 years later, in 1886, as no U.S. seminary would accept him, Augustus was ordained by Rome's Pontifical University. He became the first Roman Catholic black priest in the U.S. and dreamed of becoming a missionary in Africa. But once again he was thwarted and sent back to Quincy. There he formed St. Joseph's Church and later moved to Chicago where he started St. Monica's Church for the African-American community.

Father Tolton worked hard for his people and loved Jesus more than life. I admired his holiness and tenacity, not to mention that he was also a "home boy." I pray to him regularly for all my sick family and friends.

After he fell ill from exhaustion, Father Tolton was called home by God the Father on July 9, 1897. At his request, he was buried in Quincy. His cause for sainthood was introduced in 2011: http://www.toltoncanonization.org

Pray for us, Father Tolton.

The Faithful Reflections column appears on the first Sunday of every month in The Chimes. Saint Margaret Mary parishioners who wish to contribute their own personal reflections can contact Carol LaChapelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 773.981.2282 for more details.

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