St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church Celebrates Black History Month by Rick Ouellette

Starting with a beautiful Holy Mass this past Saturday morning, Feb. 22, at St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church, Fr. Gonzalez, pastor, and Fr. Gerard, assistant to the Postulator for the Canonization of Fr. Tolton from Chicago, celebrated Black History Month with many parishioners and visitors. After mass, St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church parishioners prepared a wonderful celebration where Fr. Gerard continued to speak on Fr. Tolton at a packed filled reception with family and friends in St. Theresa’s Leppert Hall. The hall was also covered with many educational Black History Month tables and posters that were information and interesting.

Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) was the first African-American Catholic priest to acknowledge his African heritage publicly. Born into slavery, Tolton and his family escaped to Illinois, where he discerned a call to the priesthood, despite the racism he endured from white Catholics. But while his pastor supported his vocation, Tolton was rejected by every American seminary because of his race. Finally, he was accepted at a seminary in Rome and prepared to serve in the African missions as the American bishops were quite sure that the American Church wasn’t ready for black priests. But Rome saw differently, and Fr. Tolton was sent first to Quincy, Ill., and then to Chicago where, despite constant struggles with prejudiced clergy and laity, he served his people tirelessly, dying of exhaustion at only 43.

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