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CNN tribute to 1st black US priest

September 06, 2010

CNN has published a commentary paying tribute to Father Augustus Tolton (1854-97), the nation’s first African-American priest. The Archdiocese of Chicago opened his sainthood cause earlier this year.

“Father Tolton’s experience resonates with many black Catholics,” writes C. Vanessa Williams, a professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. “For every two steps forward-- the ordination and cause for sainthood of Father Augustus Tolton, the National Black Catholic Lay Congresses of the 19th and 20th centuries-- there are two steps back, like the recent shuttering of the African-American parishes and schools in the inner cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri, and Los Angeles, California, and the struggles of black Catholic lay ministerial leadership who strive to be accepted within the broader Church.”

Correction: Father James Augustine Healy, who would eventually become the Bishop of Portland, Maine, was actually ordained to the priesthood earlier than Father Tolton. Although Bishop Healy was light-skinned, reflecting his racially mixed background, his African ancestry is not in doubt.


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