CHICAGO – The canonization cause for Father Augustus Tolton is just one step away from going to Pope Francis for the priest to be declared “venerable.”
On Feb. 5, the feast of St. Agatha, a nine-member Vatican theological commission unanimously voted that Tolton’s cause be moved forward to the cardinals and archbishops in the Congregation for Saints’ Causes for a final vote to send a decree of the priest’s “heroic virtues” to Pope Francis for his approval.
Upon the promulgation of that decree, Tolton would receive the title “venerable,” which indicates he lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance at a heroic level.
The next steps would be beatification and canonization. In general, one miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification, and a second such miracle is needed for canonization.
Tolton, the first African-American to be ordained a Catholic priest for the United States, was born into slavery, ordained in 1886 in Rome because no U.S. seminary would take him and died serving in Chicago in 1897.
Father James Healy (1830-1900) is considered by some to be the first black U.S. Catholic priest in the U.S. He was biracial; his father was Irish. Born in Georgia, he was ordained in 1854 in Paris for ministry in the U.S. He later became a bishop, heading the Diocese of Portland, Maine.
If canonized, Tolton would be the nation’s first African-American saint.
“Father Tolton’s story represents the long and rich history of African-American Catholics, who have lived through troubling chapters and setbacks in our American history,” said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, archdiocesan postulator for the cause.
Read more at Crux.