Quincy Catholics commemorate Tolton’s death

Father Tolton is recognized as the first black priest in the United States and the Cause for...
Father Tolton is recognized as the first black priest in the United States and the Cause for his beatification and canonization of sainthood is ongoing in Rome.((handout) | Andrew Hansen)
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 1:33 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Catholics and others devoted to Father Augustine Tolton will commemorate the 125 anniversary of his death with a pilgrimage procession on Saturday, July 9, in Quincy.

Tolton is recognized as the first black priest in the United States, and the cause for this beatification and canonization of sainthood is ongoing in Rome.

The mile-long procession will begin at 10 a.m. at the statue of Tolton outside St. Peter Catholic Church at 2600 Maine St.

After a welcome, explanation and prayer, the procession will travel along the south side of Maine Street and cross onto the east side of South 33rd Street until it reaches St. Peter Catholic Cemetery, where Tolton is buried.

Upon entering the cemetery, the procession will stop at 11 a.m. at Tolton’s grave for celebration of Mass, with Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Thomas John Paprocki as the celebrant.

Following Mass, the pilgrims will pray, including for Tolton’s canonization as a saint.

The gathering will conclude with the singing of “Holy God, We Praise thy Name,” Tolton’s favorite hymn.

Those who wish to participate in the Mass but cannot walk in the procession are invited to park near the cemetery and join the gathering at the grave. Due to the small size of the cemetery, no one should park in the cemetery itself.

Tolton was born into slavery in 1854. In 1862, he, his mother and siblings escaped across the Mississippi River to Illinois.

After settling in Quincy, he attended St. Peter Catholic School and later went to seminary in Rome because no American seminary would accept a black man.

Thinking he would minister in Africa once he was ordained, he was sent back to Quincy, where he arrived to thousands of supporters. Known for his singing and homilies, Tolton spent several years in Quincy before transferring to Chicago.

He died of heatstroke at 43 on July 9, 1897, and is buried in St. Peter Cemetery in Quincy. Pope Francis declared him “Venerable” on June 12, 2019, the second stop of four to becoming a saint in the Catholic Church.

For more information, contact the Rev. Daren J. Zehnle at 217-321-1109.

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