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Pope Francis Advances the Cause for Sainthood of The Servant of God Rev. Augustus Tolton

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

Chicago, IL (June 12, 2019) – 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.

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 Patrick 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

Learn more about tolton's sainthood cause 


Black Catholic History

Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA