State Senators Jacqueline Y. Collins and John Sullivan passed Senate Resolution 609 designating April 24, 2012, as Father Augustus Tolton Day in honor of the first African-American priest ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. Father Tolton served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Quincy from 1886 to 1889, then moved to Chicago to shepherd a growing congregation of black Catholics at St. Augustine’s and later St. Monica’s.
Augustus Tolton first came to Illinois in 1862 with his mother and two siblings, who found refuge in Quincy, just across the river from Missouri, where the family had been enslaved. After attending schools in Quincy, Augustus applied to seminaries across the United States, but all refused to accept him. As he was unable to study in the United States, he attended seminary in Rome and was ordained on April 24, 1886. Cardinal Simeoni overruled a committee’s decision to send him to Africa, and instead sent him back to him home in Quincy to lead St. Joseph’s Church.