Augustus Tolton Becomes Ordained Catholic Priest
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Time Period
4/24/1886
Description
Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) was born to Catholic slave parents in Missouri, but he and his family escaped slavery in Missouri when he was young. Living in Illinois, he desired to be a priest at a young age but knew the barriers he would face as an African-American. Attending Quincy College, a Franciscan school, he was able to impress the Franciscans there with his gifts. This helped him attain admission to the College of Propagation of the Faith in Rome, Italy in 1880.

After five years of study, he was officially ordained on April 24, 1886 in Rome. Unlike previous Catholic priests with African ancestry (see James Augustine Healy), Tolton was the first fully African-American priest and was clearly recognizable as black.

Before returning to the United States and serving various black Catholic parishes, Cardinal Giovanni Simeoni remarked about Tolton, "If America has never seen a black priest, it has to see one now."
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Source(s)
Murphy, Larry, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary Ward, 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland.
Reid, Daniel, Robert Linder, Bruce Shelley, and Harry Stout, 1990. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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