Senators Collins and Sullivan honor first African-American Catholic Priest


Father Tolton Ministered to Faithful in Quincy, Chicago


SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) and State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) have introduced a resolution designating April 24, 2012, as Father Augustus Tolton Day in honor ofthe first African-American priest ordained in the Roman Catholic Church.
Father Tolton served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Quincy from 1886 to 1889, then moved to Chicago to shepherd a growing congregation of black Catholics at St. Augustine’s and later St. Monica’s.

“Father Tolton’s life is an inspiring example to all African-Americans, Catholics, and Illinoisans,” Sen. Collins said. “Escaping with his mother from a life of slavery in Missouri, Augustus Tolton still faced discrimination in his adopted state of Illinois. At the same time, he
found spiritual mentors in the Church who recognized his gift for ministry and insisted on his inclusion.”

Father Tolton attended seminary in Rome and was ordained there on April 24, 1886. Cardinal Simeoni overruled a committee’s decision to send him to Africa, saying, “America has been called the most enlightened nation in the world. We shall see whether it deserves that honor. If the United States has never before seen a black priest, it must see one now.”

“Quincy is proud of its distinction as the first community in America to welcome an African-American priest,” Sen. Sullivan said. “As pastor of St. Joseph’s, Father Tolton worked tirelessly to care for both black and white parishioners and educate the poor.”

In 1897, Father Tolton died of heat stroke at the age of 43. He is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Quincy.