From slavery to sainthood

On the statue in front of St. Peter's School in Quincy

If you grew up in Quincy, chances are you have heard the story of Augustus Tolton.

In recent years, an effort has been set forth to rise Tolton to sainthood. Tolton has been gone for over one hundred years, but has been the talk of the town recently. Cardinal Francis George of the Arch Bishop in Chicago began the canonization process for Tolton in 2010 â?¦ a process that normally can take quite some time to finish. According to Bishop Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese in Chicago, things are moving faster than normal.

Augustus Tolton was the first African American Catholic priest. He was born into slavery in Brush Creek, Missouri in 1854 under the name Augustine Tolton. Toltonâ??s mother managed to escape with her children and find a way to Quincy. Tolton grew up a Catholic.

When he reached Quincy, his mother looked for a parish for Tolton to be a part of. Saint Boniface was the first place they looked. Since Tolton was African American, he faced prejudice, resulting in him looking to another church.

Tolton was able to continue his faith through Saint Peterâ??s church in Quincy.

It is said he developed a calling to the priesthood at Saint Peterâ??s. While in search for a seminary that would ordain him into priesthood, he found no one who would ordain an African American man.

Father McGirr was a priest at Saint Peterâ??s at the time and was able to find a mission church in Rome, Italy who would accept Tolton.

Tolton was ordained in Italy, only to be sent back to Quincy to begin his works as a minister. He held his first mass at Saint Boniface, only to start an African American parish soon after called Saint Joseph. This parish was owned by Saint Boniface. His parish eventually brought parishioners from Saint Boniface.

Saint Boniface eventually had Tolton relocated to the city of Chicago, where he started the first officially recognized African American Catholic parish in the country, Saint Monicaâ??s.

A heat wave hit Chicago in July of 1897, taking the lives of many around the city â?¦ one of which being Tolton. He suffered a heat stroke blocks away from the train stop.

His body is buried in St. Peterâ??s Cemetery in Quincy, where he wished to be buried.

Click on the Google map for the original interactive version.

Over a century later, Tolton has been named a Servant of God, which is step one in the process of canonization.

Bishop Perry is the postulator for the canonization process, which makes him responsible for investigating Toltonâ??s life and proving him worthy of sainthood.

The next step of the process is exhumation, which is where they dig up his body to check its condition. Once the body is identified to be Tolton, they will look to prove a miracle of Toltonâ??s, which would move him up to a Venerable, which is the next step on the ladder to sainthood.

The miracle being investigated took place in April of 2011, where prayers to Tolton may have helped someone come off life support to show an unseen recovery.

Since Tolton requested to have his body buried in Quincy, after the exhumation process, his remains will be moved to his shrine, which according to Bishop Perry will most likely be Saint Boniface in Quincy.

Bishop Perry is unsure about how long the canonization process is expected to take, but he says that since everything in Toltonâ??s life is a written history, that things will move relatively quickly. The exhumation process is expected to take place this upcoming year.