Walking in the footsteps of Father Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton

This November, in recognition of Black Catholic History Month, ThinkND and the Medieval Institute published the final installment of Pilgrimage for Healing and Liberation, which highlights the life and work of Father Augustus Tolton.


Born a slave in Bush Creek, Missouri, in 1854, Tolton went on to study in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood there at age 31.

"We walked to the Chicago bridge where the Venerable Augustus Tolton, pioneer African American Catholic who was the first priest of acknowledged African descent to serve anywhere in the United States, returned by train from a priests’ retreat out of town," said Annie Killian, the Medieval Institute's Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow for 2021–2023. "He began walking home in 105-degree heat but collapsed one block away from the station. Standing at the site of his collapse, we placed flowers and sang, lamenting the devastating impact of poverty, violence, and environmental racism on the people of Southside Chicago, where Tolton tended the sick and preached the Gospel."

Read more about the pilgrimage and view the photo gallery.