He watched the Little Heart beating—-beating, beating, beating—and then it just stopped. The suddenly still heart caused the conversion of the “Champion of Abortion.”

 

Baby—legal to kill in America            stock photo

By Larry Peterson

INFANTICIDE is a noun: It means: 1) the act of killing an infant. 2) the practice of killing newborn infants. 3) a person who kills an infant.    That is what Infanticide means; simple as that.

In January 2019, New York State has passed its own RHA (Reproductive Health Act). Amidst “hoots & hollers” and the Freedom Tower being lit up in pink, the bill was signed into law by the devout Catholic governor of N.Y. Today, to the delight of many, infanticide is legal in N.Y.

Many people in our supposedly civilized society, have moved into a different universe. They have embraced the legal execution of the most vulnerable of us all…children (babies are children). We can now legally kill them from conception to fully born and breathing on their own. No matter the size, kill them if you wish…no problem

As the parents of a daughter who was stillborn on September 6, 1978, we were fully cognizant of the LIFE that was lost to us and her siblings. My wife (who passed away from cancer in 2003) almost died that day in a valiant attempt to get to a Catholic hospital so the baby might be baptized. That is a story for another time but we both understood the insanity of treating tiny people in-utero as nothing more than “products of conception” or “blobs of tissue”. They are no such thing. They are people, just like us–only a lot smaller.

Our almost two-pound daughter was named Theresa Mary, and she was buried with my parents. She was a real person who lived and died. And her mother, who never saw her or held her was willing to die for her, unseen and unheard. This is what respecting God-given life is all about. It is the ultimate act of love and unselfishness. Secularism does not understand this. It never will.

Many people accept the undeniable truth that life is a precious gift from God.  This belief is also backed by science. Life is life, no matter how big and no matter how small. No life belongs to another and the fact that a child needs a mother’s womb to grow changes nothing. That child is unique and special with its own DNA and character and personality. That little person has as much right to live as do any of us, no matter what age.

We live with the infamous Supreme Court ruling of Roe vs. Wade passed in 1973. Since then over 61 million tiny lives have been snuffed out under the guise of “reproductive rights.” No one has ever taken away a woman’s right to reproduce. The fact that seven men voted for a law that allows a woman to destroy her own child does not make it right. Far from it, it has allowed for an ongoing abomination.

What is so astonishing is that so many folks do not see anything wrong with participating in a holocaust that has claimed more than sixty million lives. Most of these people seem to be no different than anyone else. They work, pay their bills, mow their lawns, and celebrate Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Yes, and they go to church and pray too. I do NOT understand. Whatever have we wrought?

Having laid out those thoughts, I now go back to an article from Life Site News from November of 2008.  It is about the former “champion of abortion”, Stojan Adasevic. This man performed 48,000 abortions, sometimes 35 a day, throughout 26 years. Then, miraculously, he became the most important and influential pro-life leader in Serbia.

What happened to him is well worth paying attention to.  ‘Stojan’s conversion came about from an experience he had in performing what would be his final abortion.  These are the words of Stojan after that procedure:

“As I pull out the mess, thinking it will be bone fragments I lay it on the cloth. I look, and I see a human heart, contracting and expanding and beating, beating, beating.  I thought I would go mad. I can see the heartbeat is slowing, ever more slowly, and more slowly still until it finally stops completely.  Nobody could have seen what I had seen with my very own eyes, and be more convinced than I was I had killed a human being.

After that, Stojan had an ongoing dream where children were playing and laughing but ran away when they saw him. They were filled with fear. There was a man in the dream. He was dressed in black and white and when Stojan asked him who he was, he told him he was Thomas Aquinas. You can read the entire story by opening this link

Suffice it to say that Stojan Adasevic has told his story throughout Europe. He has returned to the Orthodox faith and has become a student of St. Thomas Aquinas.

It is now February 2019. Illinois is not to be outdone by New York. They are going to propose their own RHA. Their proposed law says that women “who become pregnant [have] a fundamental right…to have an abortion,” and “provides that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the law of this state.”  This bill would reportedly void existing statute(s)  protecting the life of a child born alive during a late-term abortion. Infanticide will be “all the rage” in the great state of Illinois.

Last but not least, Senate Democrats on Monday (February 25, 2019) blocked a Republican bill that would have threatened prison for doctors who don’t try saving the life of infants born alive during abortions. These “upstanding”, “reputable” American legislators who have taken an oath to protect the Constitution, willingly have agreed that doctors can allow born-alive children to die.

In the war being waged by Satan, the master of lies and deception, his influence is so great and the deception so pronounced it takes many years of flowing graces from God before the light begins to enter the darkness. We must continue to pray as hard as we can until this scourge against human life is stopped. The most powerful weapon in our arsenal to combat this genocide is prayer.

“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity.”

Mother Teresa

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Smoking and Catholicism—Can it go from being Socially Acceptable to becoming a Mortal Sin?

Cigarette ad from the 1950s..                                                public domain

By Larry Peterson

The Baby Boomer generation (1946 thru 1964) will fully understand what follows. The Generation Z crowd (age 8 thru 23) will not. The generations in between, Gen X and Millenials, I leave for another time. This has to do with smoking.

I grew up way back in the 50s. It was an era when people not only ate and drank, they also smoked. In fact, close to 50% of Americans smoked cigarettes. Both of my parents smoked, and all five of us kids became smokers. It seemed as if everyone smoked and we never even thought about it. It was just the way it was. Doctors even did commercials promoting cigarettes.

Like many others have done, I stopped smoking a long time ago. I used to think about having a “smoke” quite often after quitting, but I have come to a point I no longer give it any thought…until the other day. That is when I heard that smoking was a mortal sin. That was, for me, a shocker.

I was at a weekday Mass in a neighboring parish, and the priest gave a short homily about addiction. He said as plain as can be that smoking cigarette was a mortal sin because it was self-abuse and smokers were violating and harming the body that God had given them. Instantly my mind took me back in time back to a world where smoking was a “good thing.”  A time when even priests smoked—in public no less.

Baby Boomers will remember the times to which I now refer. A time when smoking was allowed virtually everywhere. People smoked in supermarkets, in doctor’s offices, in hospitals, in movie theatres, and most everywhere. We never smoked in church and smoking was not allowed on the subway or buses although many people did “light up” on the bus.

When our first son was born—and so help me, this is true—my wife, Loretta, was lying in bed holding our new baby in the crook of her left arm. She was holding a lit cigarette in her other hand. She was smoking and so was the lady in the next bed who was also holding her baby. A few minutes later, Dr. Karpen, the Ob-Gyn, came in to see how Loretta was doing. He looks at me, shakes my hand, and say, “You have an extra smoke?”

I handed him a cigarette. and both of us lit up, me holding the lighter for him. That’s right; there were four adults smoking, around two newborns, as if it was the most normal thing to do. I imagine in today’s world they would slap handcuffs on us and take the babies away and turn them over to social services.

We had a pediatrician by the name of Jerry Ferber. Dr. Ferber was always quitting smoking. When you would take the little one for a visit he would more often than not say, “Listen, I have not had a cigarette all day. Give me one and there will be no charge for the visit.”

In 1964 the Surgeon General, Luther Terry, issued the first report on the dangers of smoking. It has taken decades to get to a point in time where most everywhere is “smoke-free.” They are even banning smoking in public housing. But to hear a priest say in his homily that smoking is a mortal sin just rattled my cage. I understand that to commit a mortal sin you must know it is a serious sin and you must willingly commit the act anyway.

Millions of kind, decent people who have left this world for the next were smokers. I’m sure they were never judged on their smoking habits. There are people today who still smoke and I doubt they have never (if Catholic) imagined they were sinning when lighting a cigarette.

The bottom line is this; smoking is addictive. It is very hard to stop doing it. Some people try over and over and never succeed. Many do. But to classify smoking as a mortal sin seems kind of heavy-handed. We pray for the drug addicts and we have rehab centers for them and all sorts of government programs to help.

To get help in quitting smoking click this link.

©copyrighjt Larry Peterson 2018

 


Pope St. Hyginus–The Pope who initiated having Godparents for the Newborn

Pope St. Hyginus the tenth Pope 137-142 AD                      ucatholic.com

By Larry Peterson

The ninth pope in the line of succession and the person who succeeded Telesphorus was a man named Hyginus. According to the Liber Pontificalis (this is the widely referenced history of the Popes from St. Peter up until the 15th century) Hyginus, a contemporary of St. Justin Martyr, was a Greek from Athens who had been a philosopher and a Christian apologist. He attained the Chair of Peter during a time when the Gnostic heresies were taking hold with the church.

Valentinus was a candidate to be Bishop of Rome but when that did not happen, he began his own school of thought. This became known as Gnosticism which basically teaches that the primary way to learn about God is through your own reason and not from revelation or tradition. This concept was against all that was part of Catholic teaching.

Hyginus fought vigourously against the Gnostic heresy and managed to overcome it. Many of the followers of Valentinus rejected his teachings and returned to the church. Some did not.

In addition to confronting and defeating the Gnostics, Hyginus also defined the various levels of the hierarchy and the responsibilities attached to the different positions.

Hyginus, although only pope for a short time, established the practice of including godparents to assist the newly born, not only at the Baptism but throughout their Christian life. He also decreed that all churches must be consecrated before Masses could be offered in them.

It is said that Pope Hyginus died a martyr. However, this has not been fully documented. When he died, he was buried on the Vatican Hill, close to St. Peter’s tomb.  His feast day is January 11.

Prayer to Pope St. Hyginus:

O eternal Shepherd, watch over the peace of the flock, and through Blessed Hyginus, Thy martyr and sovereign pontiff, whom thou didst appoint shepherd over the whole church, keep her under Thy constant protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

 ©Larry Peterson copyright 2019


Celebrating Catholic Black History Month: Meet Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange*

Servant of God; Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange            public domain

Honoring Black History Month; 2019

By Larry Peterson

In July of 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month. To be truthful, up until that time, I had never even heard of the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus or any other black Catholic organizations. I was truly pleased to find they existed.

Then a few years ago, I discovered a man named Augustus Tolton. Born a slave in Missouri, Augustus became the first ordained, African-American Catholic priest in America. Declared a “Servant of God”, Father “Gus” may well become the first African-American to be canonized a saint. Time will tell.

Discovering Father Tolton led me to other Catholic people of color,  people that were ridiculed and persecuted because of their African-American heritage, people who stood tall in the face of adversity and, most of all, people who embraced their Catholic faith and became shining stars on the road to sainthood.

People like Venerable Henriette Delille (profiled in Aleteia) who not only opened schools and homes for the sick and elderly but also founded a religious order, The Sisters of the Holy Family. “Servant of God”; Mother Mary Lange, is another great Catholic woman who led a remarkable life and also has been placed on the path to canonization.

There is a bit of confusion about where Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born. It probably was Haiti somewhere around 1790. That is not an absolute but it is known that she did grow up in Santiago de Cuba and that is considered her birthplace. Elizabeth grew up in the French-speaking area of the city and became well educated. The “oral” history of the time stated she came from a family with an elevated “social standing”.

Beyond that not much more is known of her early years except for the fact she did leave Cuba to seek peace and security in the United States. She eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland where many French-speaking Catholic refugees from Haiti had settled. Elizabeth quickly recognized that the children of the many Caribbean immigrants needed education. A loving, courageous and deeply spiritual woman, Elizabeth was not only an independent thinker, but she was also a woman of action.

Somewhere around 1818,  Elizabeth and her friend, Marie Magdelaine Balas, began offering free education to children of the migrants. They opened their home in the Fells Point area of Baltimore City and began teaching. They were black women in a slave state and the Emancipation Proclamation was still 50 years in the future. Elizabeth used her own money for supplies and charged nothing for her services. Since free public schools would not be available for children of color until 1866, the poor children in the area had become recipients of a miraculous opportunity.

Sometime around 1828 the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Whitfield, asked Father James Joubert, S.S. if he would ask Elizabeth Lange if she would consider starting a school for “girls of colour”.  For Elizabeth, this was an answer to her prayers. She confided in father Joubert that she had been waiting for God’s call for more than ten years. She asked if she could start a religious order and father Joubert thought it was a fine idea. He agreed to provide guidance, solicit funds and encourage other “women of colour” if they would consider joining the first congregation of women of African heritage. Elizabeth was overjoyed.

There was one significant problem with their plans. Black men and women were not allowed to part of or even aspire to a religious calling. Once again, the hand of God would be needed to grace those involved, mainly Archbishop Whitfield. Amazingly, standing against the culture of the day, the Archbishop agreed to allow Elizabeth and three other women to take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity. They were to pledge obedience to the Archbishop.  Thus began the order that is called the Oblate Sisters of Providence. From that point on Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was know as Mother Mary Lange.

Mother Mary worked tirelessly helping and teaching those who so desperately needed her and her followers. She was the Superior General of the order during the 1830s. She assisted night and day during two separate Cholera Epidemics, one in the early 1830s and another in the 1840s. She worked as a domestic and as the novice mistress as her newly founded order began to grow.

Being a black woman and a nun Mother Mary had to fight off hatred, poverty and racial injustice. She never tired of fighting for those in need and lived to see the fiftieth anniversary of her order. Mother Mary Lange, feeble and almost blind, was relieved of her duties in 1876. She lived another 16 years and passed away on February 3, 1882. She was 92 years old, give or take a year or two.

In 1991, William Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, received permission from Rome to officially open a formal investigation into the life of Mother Mary Lange’s life and works. Since the cause for her beatification was started she has been honored as a “Servant of God”, the first step in the canonization process.

 Servant of God , Mother Mary Lange, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved


Daniel Rudd; Born into Slavery, He Became One of the Great Black Catholics in American History

Daniel Rudd                                                                                catholic365.com

By Larry Peterson

Honoring Black History Month; 2019

Daniel Rudd was born on August 7, 1854 and was one of twelve children. His dad was a slave on the Rudd estate close to Bardstown, Kentucky and his mom was a slave on the Hayden plantation in Bardstown. Since the Rudd’s and Hayden’s were Catholic, so were Daniel’s parents. It followed that Daniel was baptized into the Catholic faith at St. Joseph’s Church. The fifteen year old daughter of his owner stood up for him as his God-mother.
 

Daniel’s relatives had been church sextons at St. Joseph’s for three generations and Daniel was taught how to care for the church. He was quoted as saying he never experienced any segregation in his church. “We have been all over St. Joseph Church from foundation stone to pinnacle and no one ever told us to move.” Daniel Rudd grew up loving his Catholicism.

During the pre-civil war era of slavery, slaves were not allowed to attend school. It is thought that Daniel’s priest at St. Joseph’s is the one who tutored him. After the Civil War, Daniel moved to Ohio with his brother, Charles. He actually managed to finish high-school (at the time a rare achievement for a young, white man, no less a black man) and, upon graduating, became a political activist in the fledgling and dangerous civil rights movement. This is also when he landed his first job at a newspaper. The year was 1880.

 
Daniel Rudd, filled with an entrepreneurial spirit, opened the first newspaper by and for African- Americans in January of 1885. It was called the “Ohio State Tribune”. One year later the name was changed to the “American Catholic Tribune”. The opening statement emblazoned across the front page was; 
 
“We will do what no other paper published by colored men has dared to do—give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”
 
This was an incredibly courageous way to launch his paper. At the time Catholics were, for the most part, looked down upon. Most African-Americans were Protestant and knew nothing about the Catholic Church. Yet Daniel Rudd, who was an “outsider” to his own people, was reaching out to them and asking them to consider converting. He let them know the Catholic Church was the “real answer” because it welcomed everyone. Somehow Daniel stood firm in the face of danger. His faith was his fortress because even the Ku Klux Klan, who were continually persecuting blacks, hated the Catholics too.
 
Daniel Rudd managed to stay safe and went on to become a noted journalist, speaker and advocate for Black Catholicism. In 1889, he and Father Augustus Tolton (a former slave and the first ordained African-American priest in America) began the National Black Catholic Congress in Washington D.C.  By then his newspaper had a circulation of 10,000 readers. Mr. Rudd also was a leader of the Afro-American Press Association, was a founding member of the Catholic Press Association and helped found the Black Lay Catholic Movement. 
 
Daniel Rudd, born a slave, became one of the most influential African-American Catholics in American history. In 1912 he moved to Arkansas where he taught in local schools and co-authored the biography of the first black millionaire in Arkansas, Scott Bond. Daniel Rudd’s Catholic faith was his anchor in the storm, the foundation for his courage and his comfort in the darkness he experienced. He passed to his eternal reward in 1932.
 
His message to his African-American brothers and sisters was:
 
“The Negro of this country; abused, downtrodden, and condemned, needs all the forces which may be brought to bear in his behalf to elevate him to that plane of equality. The HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH offers to the oppressed Negro a material as well as a spiritual refuge. We NEED the Church, the church WANTS us. Investigate brethren!”
 
                               ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

An American story about an Irish priest, a brave girl, and the KKK

Father James Coyle                                                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Each and every one of us is an individual work of art, crafted by God for Himself. Why would He do that? He does it because He is Love and wants to share Himself with us. We all are truly special in His eyes. He loves us all, individually and without reservation.

 

He will forgive each and every one of us for anything we might do to offend Him. All we have to do is admit it and ask Him for his forgiveness. However, that great interloper called “Pride”, oftentimes places for many, immovable roadblocks to humility, everyone’s needed ally on their path to Love.

 

What follows is an “American” story about a Catholic priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is about love and hatred in America. This is not about the present day. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1921.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle had been born and raised in Ireland and, at the age of 23, was ordained a priest in Rome. The year was  1896.  That same year he was dispatched to the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama to begin his ministry. Father Coyle served eight years in Mobile. While there he also became a charter member of Mobile Council 666 of the Knights of Columbus.

 

Birmingham was rapidly growing and was turning into one of the primary steel-making centers in America. Thousands were flooding into the area and Bishop Patrick Allen assigned Father Coyle to be pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. This was in 1904.

 

In 1915, inspired by the silent film, “Birth of a Nation” , the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan rose up (the link can explain the first and third generations). These folks were not only anti-black they also hated Roman Catholics, Jews, organized labor and foreigners. They started the use of the “burning cross” as their symbol. By the mid-1920s, there were over 4 million klansmen nationwide.

 

Father Coyle was a passionate priest who loved his faith deeply and this love was infectious. He taught and inspired his parishioners about the beauty and importance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist and he held a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother.

 

The parish grew as Catholics gravitated to the Irish shepherd in their midst. He became the chaplain for the Birmingham Council 635 of the Knights of Columbus and his presence there brought in more members from the growing Catholic community.

 

As the Catholic population in Alabama grew, virtual hysteria on the part of the Ku Klux Klan began to permeate daily life. The Klan was spreading rumors and innuendo about Catholics kidnapping protestant women and children and keeping them imprisoned in convents, monasteries and Catholic hospitals. The Klan even spread the narrative that the Knights of Columbus was the military arm of the Pope and that they were stockpiling weapons for the upcoming insurrection.

 

One of the leading Catholic-haters of the day was a klansman by the name of  Edwin Stephenson. Stephenson lived about a block or two away from St. Paul’s Church. His daughter, Ruth, at about the age of 12, had become fascinated by the comings and goings of the Catholics at St. Paul’s every day. One day she walked down to the church and  Father Coyle was outside. They began to talk. Her father saw talking to the priest and, screaming at his child, demanded she go home immediately. Then he had a few choice words to say to Father Coyle. He then went home and beat his daughter.

 

Young Ruth was undeterred and over the next several years even managed to secretly take instruction from the nuns at the Convent of Mercy. She was baptized a Catholic on April 10,1921. She was 18 years old. When her parents found out their wedding gift to her was the worst beating she had ever received.

 

On August 11, 1921, Ruth Stephenson, of legal age, was seeking full emancipation from her parents. She did this by marrying Pedro Gussman, a former handyman who had worked at the Stephenson house several years earlier. The priest that performed the wedding was a reluctant Father James Coyle.

Later that afternoon, Mr. Stephenson loaded up his rifle and began walking to St. Paul’s Church. He had just found out that it was Father Coyle who had performed the wedding. His heart was not filled with love. Rather, with hatred spilling from his eyes, he walked up onto the porch of St. Paul’s where Father Coyle was sitting down reading and shot the priest three times. The final bullet went right through Father Coyle’s head. He died in less than an hour.

 

Stephenson turned himself in and was charged with Father Coyle’s murder. The KKK paid for the defense, the judge was a Klansman and the lawyer who defended Stephenson was Hugo Black, the future U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Although not a Klan member at the time of trial, Black did become a member afterward. The verdict took only a few hours to come in. It was “Not Guilty”.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle was a Catholic priest who loved his God, his Faith, and his Church. He was hated and murdered because of it. May he forever rest in peace.

 

copyright©Larry Peterson 2017


Venerable Henriette Delille–A Catholic Woman of Color on the Road to Sainthood*

Venerable Henriette Delille Aletaia.org

Honoring Black History Month; 2019

By Larry  Peterson

I’m sure most of us have heard of the people known as French Creoles. The Creoles are simply descendants of the settlers of Louisiana who were of French descent. The term also became applied to African descended slaves who were born in Louisiana. One of those descendants was a woman by the name of Henriette Delille.

Henriette was born in 1813 in New Orleans. Her father had been born in France and her mom was a “free woman of color”. Theirs was a common-law marriage which was quite typical at the time in New Orleans. The people practiced the placage, a recognized “legal” system whereby European men, although legally married,  entered into relationships with non-European women of African, Native  American or mixed-race descent. As a Creole, Henriette was a qualified ‘candidate’ for a placage common-law marriage and her mom was resolved to see that it happened. Her daughter was not so determined.

Henriette’s mother, on a quest to see that her daughter became a common-law wife to a wealthy white man, trained Henriette in the fine arts of dance, literature, and music. She made sure that Henriette attended as many “quadroon balls” as possible. There was one problem; Henriette was not interested. Her mind, heart, and soul were pointing in a different direction.

Henriette had developed a deep faith in Catholicism and its teachings. She wanted no part of the life her mother was planning for her. Rather, she became an outspoken adversary of the placage system because it violated the Church’s teachings on the Sacrament of Matrimony. Henriette’s objections to her mom’s wishes began causing serious discord between mother and daughter.

When Henriette was 22 years old, her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was declared by the courts as “incompetent”. Henriette was granted control of her mom’s assets and immediately made arrangements for her to be provided for. After ensuring her mom would was well taken care of and in good hands, she sold all the other assets. She took the remaining proceeds and founded a small, unrecognized  order of nuns. They called themselves the Sisters of the Presentation. The order consisted of seven young Creole women and a young French woman.

Henriette and her little group began their fledgling ministry by taking in some elderly women who had no place to go or help take care of them. In effect, Henriette Delille had opened America’s first Catholic home for the elderly. To this day this is one of their primary charitable works. (Ironically, during the same year of 1836, a woman named Jeanne Jugan was in France acquiring a small cottage and beginning a new order. She brought a blind, crippled elderly woman into her home and so began the Little Sisters of the Poor. She had two followers with her.)

Henriette Delille had officially devoted her life to God. In 1836 she wrote, “I wish to live and die for God.” She and her group began caring for the sick, helping the poor,  teaching both free and enslaved men, women and children. Henriette became a frequent sponsor for mixed-race babies at Baptisms in nearby St. Louis Cathedral and in St. Augustine Church. She also became very active in St. Claude School,  founded for young women of color.

In 1837 Henriette’s new order received recognition from the Holy See. In 1842 the congregation changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family.  Today the Sisters of the Holy Family have over 200 members continuing to serve the poor by operating free schools for children, retirement homes and nursing homes in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California and Belize.

Henriette Delille died in 1862. She was 49 years old.  On March 27, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI, declared that Henriette Delille had led a life of “heroic virtue” and declared the Creole woman from New Orleans, “Venerable”. When the sisters in her order heard the news they quickly gathered together, headed to their chapel and sang the Te Deum, praising God for the great blessing.

I believe that Venerable Henriette may well become the first African-American woman to be canonized a saint.   (This article appeared in Aleteia on Nov 4, 2016)

Father Augustus Tolton is the first African American  ordained a priest in America. Born a slave, his story is also in Aleteia. He has been declared a “Servant of God” and is on the road to sainthood..

Venerable Henriette Delille, please pray for us.

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016


From American Slave to Catholic Priest: Meet “Good” Father Gus; the First Black Man in the United States ordained a Catholic Priest

Father Augustus Tolton                                                     www.youtube.ocm

By Larry Peterson

Honoring Black History Month; 2019

April 1, 1854, Brush Creek, Missouri:  Peter Tolton, paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to their second son. They named him Augustus (after his uncle) and, before the month was out, the baby was baptized in nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church.  Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augustus’ godmother.

The baptism of Augustus was a bit unusual. That was because Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot, who happened to be the “owner” of Augustus’ mom and dad. Mr. and Mrs. Tolton were slaves and their three children, Charley, Augustus, and Anne, were born into slavery. The slave master made sure his slaves were baptized and his family and his slaves were all Catholic.

After the Civil War began, the Toltons, seeking freedom, ‘ran away’. Peter joined the Union army and the rest of the family headed north.  With the help of Union soldiers, Martha Jane and her children arrived in Illinois, a “free” state. Martha Jane and the children settled in Quincy, Illinois. Young Augustus Tolton, aged eight or nine, was soon to meet Father Peter McGirr.

Martha Jane and her oldest boy, Charley, were hired by a local tobacco company to make cigars while Augustus, charged with taking care of his little sister, began spending a lot of time across the street from St. Peter’s Church. The pastor was Father McGirr.

Father McGirr, had noticed Augustus and his sister and, after a while, approached the boy. He introduced himself and asked a frightened Augustus if he would like to go to school. Augustus was thrilled with the prospect and said, “YES!”

Most of the white parishioners did not want a black student being taught along with their white children. Father McGirr held fast and firm and insisted the boy study at St. Peter’s. Martha Jane was shocked that her boy had been offered such an opportunity and agreed for him to go. Augustus Tolton’s life journey had been set before him even though he did not know it.

Father McGirr may have been moved by the Holy Spirit because he saw something in Augustus that others did not. The boy received his First Holy Communion, became an altar boy and proved to be a brilliant student. By the 1870s, when prejudice was basically taken for granted, Father McGirr was attempting to enroll Augustus in a seminary so he might study for the priesthood. The young black man was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied. But a tenacious and determined Father McGirr never gave up.

They both continued praying and trying and finally, Father McGirr secured admission for Augustus to St. Francis  Solanus College located right there in Quincy. Upon graduation, Augustus was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.  In 1886, at the age of 32, Augustus Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome.  He was the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States

Newspapers from across the country told the story of the former slave now ordained as a Catholic priest.  When Father Tolton arrived back in Quincy he was greeted as a hero.  A brass band played and Negro spirituals were sung as thousands of people, both white and black, sang together, lined the streets together and held hands together as they waited to catch a glimpse of the former slave boy who had been ordained a Catholic priest.

Father Tolton walked down the avenue dressed in his cassock and wearing the biretta.  When he arrived at St. Boniface Church, hundreds were crowded inside wanting to receive his blessing.  His very first blessing went to Father McGirr who was still by his side. The next day Father Tolton said his first Mass at the church which was once again packed inside while thousands of others stood outside. For these few days prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent. The Golden Rule—Ruled.

Father Tolton had been ill for quite some time and had never told anyone.  On a steaming July day in 1897, with the temperature at 105 degrees, Father Tolton was returning from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train he collapsed.  Taken to the hospital, he died a few hours later from sunstroke. He was only 43 years old.  His community was shocked.  They had lost a dear friend.  “Good Father Gus”, as he was lovingly called by his parishioners, was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.

If 130 years ago white people and black people could join hands in song to honor a black Catholic priest, why could something like this not happen again?  Maybe instead of a Ferguson, Missouri we could have a replay of a Quincy, Illinois, circa 1889.  With God, anything is possible. We should pray to Good Father Gus for this. Who knows, maybe a new Augustus Tolton will one day step from the shadows to help us once again achieve such a moment.

Father Augustus Tolton aka “Good Father Gus” was declared a “Servant of God” on February 13, 2012,  placing the priest on the road to canonization.

©copyright Larry Peterson 2016