COMO YOU KNOW: Father Augustine Tolton

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 9:54 a.m. CDT; updated 6:57 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 9, 2014

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Father Augustine Tolton was born in Missouri and was the first black Catholic priest in the United States.

A regional Catholic high school in Columbia bears his name.

Full text

Father Augustine Tolton was the first black Catholic priest in the United States and was a Missouri native.

Tolton was the first black Catholic priest in the United States. A Missouri native, he was born in 1854 into slavery in Ralls County while slavery was legal in the state. During his childhood, Tolton escaped with his family to Illinois. Though he wanted to become a priest, American seminaries rejected Tolton because he was black, but the Urban College in Rome eventually accepted him.

Tolton was ordained in Rome, and he celebrated his first Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. He later served as a priest in Quincy, Ill., and Chicago. Tolton died at age 43 in 1897.

Updated: March 20, 2013

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