LIMA, Il. – Visitors packed St. Rose Lima Church for the premiere of a film documenting the life of St. Augustus Tolton.
Born a slave in pre-Civil War Missouri, Father Augustus Tolton became the nation’s first African-American priest, and today is known around the globe as a faith pioneer.
“It’s phenomenal to think that a black person back in the 1800s could do that,” viewer Jeffrey Wolf said.
It’s a story that captured the imagination of filmmaker Chris Foley six years ago
“I went right up to Bishop Perry afterwards and said, I’m going to make a movie about this,” Foley said.
He said it’s only right for the film’s first showing to take place in the Tri-States.
“Quincy is the town that Father Tolton considered his hometown,” Foley said. “He was buried here and lived the majority of his life here, so it’s just really exciting to be here where he lived and walked.”
As audience members follow Tolton’s path to sainthood, they said his story hits home.
“Considering he was the first black priest assigned to the United States and him becoming a saint, oh my gosh, it’s phenomenal,” Wolf said. “You can’t think of anything better than that.”
Foley said he calls his film “Across.”
“He suffered a lot because of his race but he suffered well,” Foley said. “One of the reasons I call the movie ‘Across’ is because he carried his cross.”
He hopes people go home with one message about Father Tolton.
“He showed others that you don’t return hatred with hatred, you return hatred with love,” Foley said.
Foley said if you missed the film’s premier on Sunday, be on the lookout for its TV premiere on December 18.
He said he’s hoping to turn it into a full feature film next year and get it in theaters shortly after.
For more information on the short film, you can visit the film’s website.