Special Initiatives

Augustus Tolton Canonization

Who is Father Augustus Tolton?

Father Augustus Tolton (1854 – 1897) was the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States publicly known to be black. A former slave who was baptized and reared Catholic, Tolton studied formally in Rome since no American seminary would accept him because of his race. He was ordained in 1886.

He was assigned to the diocese of Alton (now Springfield) and first ministered to his home parish in Quincy, Illinois. Tolton eventually was sent to Chicago, where he ran development and construction of St. Monica’s Catholic Church as a black national parish church. The church was never completed beyond the first level, and Fr. Tolton incurred an untimely death on July 9, 1897. To read Father Tolton’s complete biography, click here.


Father Tolton left behind a legacy of serving brother and sisters despite hardships, a legacy of good overcoming evil in the name of Christ Jesus, and a legacy of a son born of slaves. He was known for persevering against all odds in pursuit of his calling and quietly devoted himself to his people, despite great difficulties and setbacks.

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George announced the Augustus Tolton cause for canonization for sainthood.

Most recently, on June 11, 2019, Pope Francis advanced the Cause for Sainthood of The Servant of God Augustus Tolton by signing a decree issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Upon the declaration of this decree by the Pope, Tolton is deemed “Venerable” which formally means he lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance at a heroic level. To read more about the canonization timeline, click here.

Contact Us

For questions pertaining to the Augustus Tolton Canonization project, please call Marguerite Zappa at 312.534.5353.