Vatican Officials to Investigate Possible Father Tolton Miracles

Father Augustus Tolton is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago Archives and Records Center)

QUINCY, Ill. (CNS) – The local ABC-TV affiliate in Quincy, where Father Augustus Tolton was raised and buried, reported April 14 that Vatican officials were in the United States to investigate possible miracles related to the cause of the holiness of the priest.

Father Tolton was born into slavery and is the first recognized African-American priest ordained for the American Catholic Church.

His cause for canonization was officially opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2010 and he received the title “Servant of God”.

On December 10, 2016, his cause was moved to a cemetery in Quincy where his remains were exhumed, verified and reinterred. In June 2019, Pope Francis declared that Father Tolton had lived a life of heroic virtue, giving him the title “Venerable”.

The next step is beatification, which requires the verification of a miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate for sainthood. In general, a second miracle of this type is necessary for canonization.

When Father Tolton died in Chicago in 1897, he requested to be buried in Quincy, which is in the Diocese of Springfield. He and his family had fled there after escaping slavery in nearby Missouri and it was there that he returned to ministry after being ordained in Rome at Easter 1886.

At the time his remains were exhumed, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Joseph N. Perry, who is a postulator for the priest’s cause, said two miracles were possible and had been sent to Rome, where they were being examined.

“We have received about 50 testimonies from people across the country testifying to the favors of God through the intercession of (Father) Tolton,” said Bishop Perry, one of the country’s African-American Catholic bishops.

“Remarkable things – everything from needed employment to sickness in the family to all sorts of problems,” he told Chicago Catholic, the archdiocese’s news outlet. “These people are so thrilled to have their prayers answered because of him. He was quite active up there, I think. He probably needs a secretary up there to handle whatever’s been put on his lap.

In its April 14 report, KHQA-TV Channel 7 did not provide any details about what the alleged miracles under investigation might entail.

In November, as part of Black Catholic History Month celebrations, a grassroots effort emerged that called on Pope Francis to canonize Father Tolton and five other black Catholics whose canonization “causes” have been officially opened. .

These other candidates for sainthood are: Mother Mary Lange, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; Sister Thea Bowman, the first African-American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration; and Julia Greeley, known as the City of Denver’s “Angel of Charity” – all three bearing the title “Servant of God; and Mother Henriette Delille, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family, and Pierre Toussaint, both bearing the title of “Venerable”.

Editor’s Note: For more on Father Tolton’s Sainthood cause and Father Tolton’s Guild, visit

Nate Tinner-Williams, co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, contributed to this story.

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