Elementor #1608

Diocese Enlightened about First African-American Priest

Fr. Augustus Tolton


Tolton: From Slave to Priest, the true story of America’s first Black priest was recently presented at several places within the Diocese of Victoria, including the Leo J. Welder Center for Performing Arts.

The audiences were treated to a professional, dramatic, live performance produced by Saint Luke Productions coupled with a soundtrack of traditional African American spirituals produced by Tony Manfredonia. The live, one-man performance actually incorporated a cast of 14 using multimedia. The main performance and the only “live” actor to come to the diocese was played by actor Jim Coleman, playing the role of Father Tolton.

The play did not shrink from telling the truth about the racism held within our country and even among members within the church in the second half of the 19th century. Neither did the play hide the bitterness the Protestants and Catholics held against one another.

Whites did not want a black child going to their public school; some Catholics didn’t want a black student in their parish school; and although as a child Tolton spoke English and German and learned Latin and Greek from his pastor, Rev. Peter McGirr, no U. S. seminary would accept him. His pastor, knowing Tolton’s holiness and abilities, finally raised money and sent him to a seminary in Rome, where he was ordained. When Tolton returned to Quincy, Ill., as a priest, some Protestants accused him of “stealing” black Protestant church members to his congregation.

After suffering these hardships and especially persecution from a fellow priest, he moved to Chicago to pastor the poverty-stricken former slaves that flocked there.

Throughout these persecutions, Fr. Tolton held onto his Catholic faith and remained a forgiving and loving priest who worked tirelessly for his parishioners and people of all races. He died in Chicago, having worked to the point of exhaustion. He was buried in Quincy, Ill.

There is a Cause for Canonization for Father Tolton which is being led by Bishop Joseph Perry. After having watched the play and seeing the faith of both his mother, Martha Tolton, and his pastor, Fr. Peter McGirr, I believe they too should have causes opened for their canonizations.

All of St. Luke Productions are held free of charge and rely solely on prayers and donations. To learn more or to make a donation, please go to https://www.stlukeproductions.com/.