Hundreds attend pilgrimage honoring anniversary of Father Tolton’s death

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QUINCY, Il. (WGEM) – Hundreds made a pilgrimage across Quincy to honor the life and legacy of Father Augustine Tolton Saturday morning.

“Becoming a priest wasn’t easy for him, it was something that he himself believed, that a black person could never be a priest in his time, he was surprised when he was told he could be a priest,” said Deacon Peter Chineke who spoke at the ceremony Saturday.

Born a slave in Missouri, Tolton and his family escaped to Quincy.

He later became the nation’s first black priest and served in Quincy and Chicago.

Over 150 people gathered outside St. Peters church in Quincy, where they went on a pilgrimage to his grave.

Marion Gordon Hall attended the ceremony today.

She grew up in Quincy, and moved back a few years ago

“[Growing up I] never knew anything of Father Tolton before I was 70 years old which was so remarkable for me to come back and realize the importance of this,” said Hall.

Hall said she first learned about Tolton in a room with around 20 people, but now more people are learning about his life after hearing about his rise to sainthood.

“It’s so remarkable that someone, who went through what he went through […] to be a black man out of slavery, it’s just astonishing, it’s almost a message from God to tell us we should all be one,” said Hall.

Deacon Chineke said the story of Father Tolton’s life is one that inspires him personally.

“Augustine Tolton is a blessing to our generation, he’s a blessing to his people, he’s a blessing to America and we’re getting to see that,” said Deacon Chineke.

Father Daren Zehnle has been following Tolton’s path to sainthood.

He said the process has been moving very quickly and Vatican is looking for miracles to attribute to Tolton to verify his canonization.

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Frank Healy

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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