QUINCY — Area Catholics and others devoted to Father Augustine Tolton will commemorate the 125th anniversary of his death with a pilgrimage procession Saturday in Quincy.
The mile-long pilgrimage procession will begin at 10 a.m. at the statue of Father Tolton outside St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 2600 Maine Street. After a few words of welcome and explanation from the Master of Ceremonies, Father Daren J. Zehnle, followed by a prayer, the pilgrimage procession will proceed along the south side of Maine where it will cross the east side of 33rd Street south. It will then follow along the east side of South 33rd Street until it reaches St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery, where Father Tolton is buried.
Upon entering the cemetery, the procession will stop at the tomb of Father Tolton for the celebration of Holy Mass at 11 a.m., with Bishop Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield as celebrant.
“We’ve celebrated Father Tolton every year for about six years,” said Zehnle, a Quincy native and Quincy University graduate, pastor of St. Augustine in Ashland. “If we look at the life of Father Tolton, we find that whatever hardships he faced – prejudice, racism or animosity from clergy of other denominations when he had his own school – we never see him unleashed We don’t see him fly into a rage. We don’t see him shouting from the rooftops about how terribly people treat him.
“In his calm and humble way, he tries to reach out and he does what he can to bring unity to people.”
After mass and prayer (which is expected to last an hour), the pilgrimage procession will end with the chanting of “Holy God, we praise your name”, Father Tolton’s favorite hymn.
Those wishing to participate in Mass but cannot walk in the procession are encouraged to park near the cemetery to meet the procession at the grave. Due to the small size of the cemetery, no one should park in the cemetery itself. Tents, chairs and water bottles will be available at the cemetery for those wishing to attend mass.
Father Tolton was born into a family of slaves and is recognized as the first black priest in the United States. Pope Francis declared him “Venerable” on June 12, 2019, the second of four steps to becoming a saint in the Catholic Church.
The cause for his beatification and the canonization of his saintliness is underway in Rome. Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Joseph N. Perry, postulator of the priest’s cause, said two miracles were possible and had been sent to Rome, where they are being investigated.