Today we celebrate the life of Father Augustus Tolton, who was born into slavery just outside of Hannibal in Ralls County, Missouri in 1854. He would go on to become the first recognized African-American priest to be ordained by the Roman Catholic Church in the United States in 1886 at the age of 31. #AmericanHistory
At the age of 43, on July 8, 1897, he collapsed and died the following day July 9, 1897, at Mercy Hospital as a result of the heat wave in Chicago in 1897.
In 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago announced that he was beginning an official investigation into Tolton’s life and virtues with a view to opening the cause for his canonization.
By 2011, the Roman Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood of Fr. Augustus Tolton, which must take place in a public session. He is now designated Servant of God Fr. Augustus Tolton. Also at this time, there was the establishment of historical and theological commissions, which will investigate the life of Fr. Tolton, and Father Tolton Guild, which is responsible for the promotion of his cause through spiritual and financial endeavors.
On September 29, 2014, at Saint James Chapel at the Archbishop Quigley Center in Chicago, Illinois, Cardinal George formally closed the investigation into the life and virtues of Father Augustus Tolton. The dossier of research into Tolton’s life went to the Vatican, where the documents collected which support his cause will be analyzed, bound into a book called a “positio” or official position paper, and evaluated by theologians, and then, supporters hope, passed on to the pope, who can declare Tolton “venerable” if he determines Tolton led a life of heroic virtue.
On December 10, 2016, Fr. Tolton’s remains were exhumed and verified as part of the canonization process. Following procedures laid out in canon law, a forensic pathologist verified that the remains (which included a skull, femurs, ribs, vertebrae, pelvis, and portions of arm bones) belong to Fr. Tolton. Also found were the corpus from a crucifix, part of a Roman collar, the corpus from Fr. Tolton’s rosary, and glass shards indicating his coffin had a glass top.