February 27, 2011

Positivity: New phase begins in canonization cause of first African-American priest

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:58 am

From Chicago:

Feb 24, 2011 / 05:56 am

The Archdiocese of Chicago has begun a new phase of the investigation that could ultimately canonize Fr. Augustus Tolton. As the first African-American to become a priest, Fr. Tolton demonstrated remarkable patience, courage and dedication to his ministry during a time of widespread injustice.

Approximately a year after it opened Fr. Tolton’s cause, the archdiocese formally began the proceedings to examine the 19th century priest’s life, virtues and reputation for holiness. The process requires a canonical trial, which will hold its first session on the afternoon of Feb. 24 at St. James Chapel in downtown Chicago.

Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop Francis E. George will preside over the public event, at which Bishop Joseph N. Perry – the Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, who is the postulator of Fr. Tolton’s cause for sainthood – will introduce evidence of Fr. Tolton’s faithful life and holiness. The proceeding will also feature the appointment of officials who will evaluate Fr. Tolton’s reputation and the facts of his life.

The judgment of those officials, in conjunction with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, could lead to the next step in Tolton’s cause: his designation as a “Servant of God.” After this, a declaration of “heroic virtue” would establish him as “Venerable.”

Further evidence of his miraculous intercession would be needed for Fr. Tolton to become a saint of the Church. Bishop Perry told CNA on Feb. 22 that at least one such possible occurrence is already under consideration, from the reports that the archdiocese is continuing to receive from the faithful.

In the short term, however, Bishop Perry is less occupied with possible miracles, and more interested in making the case for Fr. Tolton as a model of Christian virtue.

According to Bishop Perry, the key to understanding Fr. Tolton’s life is in recognizing his “long-suffering perseverance, in the face of what you might call ‘racial apartheid’.”

“His adult life was lived largely through the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War,” the bishop noted. “The nation had no program to assimilate blacks in society, following the Emancipation Proclamation. Anyone who was emerging as an accomplished black person, suffered – and was, more than likely, not accepted.” …

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