Father Augustine Tolton, the country’s first black priest and former slave in Missouri, was proclaimed “Venerable” today [Wednesday] by Pope Francis.
The Venerable designation means he is officially recognized as living a life of heroic virtue by the Catholic Church.
Father Tolton was born just outside of Hannibal in 1854. He escaped slavery in Missouri when his mother took him and his siblings across the Mississippi River into Illinois, a free state, in 1862.
If a miracle can be attributed to Tolton, he will be declared Blessed by the Pope. A second miracle would lead him into sainthood. Officials in Rome are currently reviewing at least one potential miracle.