February 27, 2018 // Diocese

New live drama on first African-American priest coming to diocese

FORT WAYNE — The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has announced upcoming performance dates for “Tolton: From Slave to Priest,” a live, theatrical one-man drama performed by actor Jim Coleman and directed by Leonardo Defilippis of Saint Luke Productions. Public performances will take place on Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at Saint Joseph High School, South Bend, and Thursday, April 26, at 7 p.m. at Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne.

“Tolton: From Slave to Priest” is a powerful story based on the life of Father Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest. This compelling true story of courage, forgiveness and reconciliation resonates deeply with modern American audiences. Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, postulator for Father Tolton’s canonization cause, is calling “Tolton” a production that will “inspire a new era of peace, hope and forgiveness in America.” 

Admission will be $5 for individuals and $20 for families of four or more. The production runs 75 minutes and is suitable for middle school-age children and up. Tickets can be purchased online at www.diocesefwsb.org/tolton or by calling 260-399-1448.

Augustus Tolton was born a slave on a Missouri farm in

1854. His mother risked everything to reach freedom in Illinois with her three small children, escaping across the Mississippi River by night in a boat that she rowed herself. After settling in the town of Quincy, Illinois, the family continued to experience hardships and persecution. As a child, “Young Gus,” as he was called, was sent away from the local Catholic school because of the color of his skin. 

Despite segregation in the Church, Tolton felt a deep vocation to become a Catholic priest. He applied for seminary. The response? “We’re not ready for a colored priest.” Tolton did not give up and was finally ordained in Rome. Upon his return to Illinois, he worked tirelessly to serve people of all races, especially the former slaves who flocked to Chicago.

Father Tolton saw the Catholic Church as the answer to 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.”

At the young age of 43, Father Tolton collapsed from heat exhaustion on the streets of Chicago and died a few hours later. His cause for sainthood is moving forward, and more and more people are beginning to recognize the humble perseverance, determination and compassion of this extraordinary man

Volunteers will be needed for each show, including those who would be willing to assist with setup and teardown for each performance. All volunteers, including those who are able to provide meals and lodging for the actor and stage manager, should contact Stephanie Patka at [email protected] or by phone at 260-399-1448.

To learn more about Father Augustus Tolton’s cause for canonization,  visit www.toltoncanonization.org.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.