Springfield, Ill (WAND) – During Black History month many people may not realize the first black Catholic priest in the United States was in the Springfield Diocese.
Father Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in Missouri. His mother escaped taking him to Illinois where the family settled in Quincy.
In recent years the Springfield Diocese and the Chicago Diocese have been working to have Father Gus canonized as a saint. A process that is moving along at a fairly quick pace.
“In terms of the canonization processes this ones moving rather quickly. They often take decades,” according to Father Daren Zehnle in Springfield.
Father Tolton studied to become a priest in Rome and thought he would be heading to Africa. But the night before he was ordained he was told he was going back to the United States and would be in a church in Quincy.
Father Tolton died at age 43 in 1897 of heat stroke in Chicago on a 105- degree day. He is buried in Quincy.