134th Anniversary of Ven. Augustus Tolton’s Ordination as a Priest!
I’ve been so wrapped up in work today, but I can’t let this day go by on my apostolate without acknowledging this.
In this month which contains the anniversary of his birth on April 1, today, April 24, is the 134th anniversary of Ven. Augustus Tolton’s spiritual birth as a priest of Jesus Christ for His Holy Catholic Church. And on this day it is good to think about how he overcame the odds to become the first recognized Afro-American Catholic priest in U.S. history and the fact that he had to go to Rome in order to become a priest because no seminary would take him because they refuse to train much less ordain a Black man. He paved the way for the Black American Catholic priests and bishops after him as well as for me as a Black man in seminary right now. To commeorate his ordination anniversary I post below the great story that led him to being sent back to American when he thought he was going to be sent to Africa.
“The day before his ordination, Good Friday, April
23, Augustus’ faith was put to the test. Cardinal
Giovanni Simeoni addressed the deacons who would
be ordained the next day and he reminded them of
the Propaganda Oath. It bound them in obedience
to go wherever in the world they would be sent.
It was understood that Augustus was going to
Africa. He was admitted to this seminary with that
understanding. The bishop of Alton, Illinois, was not
able to get him in the Propaganda, and he had no
contact with Augustus or the seminary during the six
years that Tolton was there. Augustus had studied
African culture and languages, but he did not know
to which diocese or part of Africa he would be sent.
However, Augustus was not prepared for what was
about to happen.
Cardinal Simeoni on Good Friday 1886, the day
before the priestly ordination ceremony, reminded
Augustus of his oath of the Propaganda, that he
would go anywhere in the world he would be sent.
The Cardinal told Augustus that at a committee
meeting the evening before, it was agreed that
he should be sent to Africa, but at the end of the
discussion, Simeoni overruled the committee
announcing: 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
The Cardinal told Augustus that he was being
sent back to the United States, to the Diocese of
Alton, Illinois, his home diocese.”