Catholics to commemorate anniversary of Quincy’s Father Tolton, first black priest in U.S.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2021
Contact: Andrew Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
QUINCY — Area Catholics and others devoted to the Venerable Servant of God Father Augustine Tolton, a Quincy native, will commemorate the 124th anniversary of his death with a pilgrimage procession on Friday, July 9 in Quincy. Father Tolton is recognized as the first black priest in the United States and his Cause for the beatification and canonization of sainthood is ongoing in Rome.
The mile-long pilgrimage procession will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the statue of Father Tolton outside St. Peter Catholic School at 2500 Maine St. After a few words of welcome and explanation, followed by a prayer, the pilgrimage procession will process along the south side of Maine Street where it will cross onto the east side of South 33rd Street. It will then process along the east side of South 33rd Street until it reaches St. Peter Catholic Cemetery where Father Tolton is buried.
Upon entering the cemetery, the procession will stop at the grave of Father Tolton for the celebration of Evening Prayer at 6 p.m., which is composed of Psalms, a reading from Scripture, a homily, and petitions. Father Daren Zehnle, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Ashland, Illinois will preach.
After Evening Prayer, the pilgrims will pray for an end to racism and for more priests through Father Tolton’s intercession, as well as for Father Tolton’s canonization as a saint. The pilgrimage procession will conclude with the singing of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” Father Tolton’s favorite hymn.
Those who wish to participate in Evening Prayer but cannot walk in the procession are invited to park near the cemetery to meet the procession at the grave. Due to the small size of the cemetery, no one should park in the cemetery itself.
Chairs and bottled water will be provided at the cemetery for those who wish to participate in Evening Prayer.
Father Tolton was born into slavery in 1854. In 1862, his mother and siblings made a daring escape across the Mississippi River to Illinois. After settling in Quincy, he went to school at St. Peter’s Catholic School. Tolton later went to seminary school in Rome because no American seminary would accept a black man. Thinking he would minister in Africa, once he was ordained, he was instead sent back to Quincy, where he arrived to thousands of supporters. Known for his incredible singing and homilies, Tolton spent several years in Quincy before transferring to Chicago. He died of heatstroke at the age of 43 on July 9, 1897 and is buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Quincy. Most recently, Pope Francis declared him “Venerable” on June 12, 2019, the second step of four to becoming a saint in the Catholic Church.
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