AP Photo/Courtesy Ignatius Press
AP Photo/Courtesy Ignatius Press
The Rev. Augustus Tolton, the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

The man who escaped slavery to become the first black Catholic priest in the United States and to found Chicago’s first black Catholic parish has moved a step closer to sainthood.

The Rev. Augustus Tolton, along with seven other candidates, is now considered “venerable” after Pope Francis signed decrees on Tuesday that formally recognized they “lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance at a heroic level,” according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Tolton was born in 1854 and was 7 when he escaped with his Roman Catholic mother from a Missouri slave owner. Tolton’s mother took her children to Illinois, where Tolton graduated from St. Peter School in downstate Quincy.

A German Franciscan priest arranged for Tolton to attend a seminary in Rome after no U.S. seminaries would accept a black man. He was ordained a priest in 1886. Three years later, Tolton began his ministry in Chicago. Tolton established St. Monica Catholic Church in Bronzeville. He died in 1897, at the age of 43.

For the full story, visit Chicago.SunTimes.com.


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