Cultural Diversity: Tolton, slave to priest

Tue, May 22nd 2018 04:00 pm
Office of Cultural Diversity
Milagros Ramos
Milagros Ramos

In the Preamble of the National Black Catholic Congress XII, Pastoral Plan of Action, "The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me," states that as black Catholics, "We commit ourselves to promote the causes of canonization of the five holy women and men being considered for sainthood in our Church." The delegation that went to the National Black Catholic Congress from Buffalo met this past March and one of their goals is to commit themselves to helping everyone in our diocese learn about them. They are requesting that we all pray for their canonization.

There are five African-American men and women who are in the process toward sainthood. The first is Servant of God, Julia Greeley, a slave who lived in Hannibal, Mo. In 1863, she was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Wherever she went, she would take care of the poor in the neighborhood. She joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 1901.

The second is Venerable Henriette Delille. In 1837, her new order received recognition from the Holy See. In 1842, the congregation changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family. She served the sick, elderly and the slaves. As of today one miracle is attributed to Henriette.

Pierre Toussaint was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in December 1997. This sets him up as being on the road to becoming the first North American black saint.   
Servant of God Mary Lange and a friend started a school for immigrant children offering them free education. Mother Mary Lange went on to be the founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1829. The Oblates were the first United States based religious order of women of color.      

The fifth is Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton. The African-American Commission of the Diocese of Buffalo, Canisius College, St. Martin de Porres and NativityMiguel Middle School extend our thanks to Paul and Susan Santandreu, and the Black and Indian Mission for their financial support in helping make possible the live production of the life of Father Tolton to the diocese.

Father Tolton was born in slavery. One of the things that his family's slave-owner did was to assure that all their slaves were baptized. Tolton realized early in his life that he wanted to become a priest. We invite you to come and see all the barriers and obstacles that Tolton had confronted as he strived to become a priest. Father Tolton saw the Catholic Church as the answer to all the discrimination and rejection that he experienced in his own life. "It was the priests of the Church who taught me to pray and to forgive my persecutors," he said. "We should welcome all people into the Church, not send them away."

In May, we will have three presentations of the live production of "Tolton from Slave to Priest" with Jim Coleman. On Wednesday, May 23, Our Lady of Bistrica Church in Lackawanna will host 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 716-822-0818. On Thursday, May 24 Canisius College's Lyon Hall will host 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. performances. Tickets are available by calling the Office of Cultural Diversity at 716-847-2217.  Although admission is free we will be asking for a free-will offering.


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