02 March 2011

A friar writes of Tolton

Among the collection of books at Quincy University's Brenner Library is a three volume collection of letters written by Father Francis Solano Hilchenbach, O.F.M. He was one of the friars who came to the United States of America and he kept copies of the letters he sent, regardless of their importance.

When I was researching my senior seminary paper I spent some time reading through these letters and found them quite fascinating.

A couple of days ago the Diocesan Archivist and I were comparing our different collections of papers referring to the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton. She was unaware of this collection of Father Hilchenbach's letters and of the two references he makes to Father Tolton.

He wrote to Father Godfrey Hoelters, O.F.M. in Teutopolis, Illinois on 25 July 1886 (just after the Servant of God returned to Quincy) with a passing reference to Father Tolton:

The negroes here in Quincy are now on top; yesterday the Reverend Tolton (August Tolton) pontificated at the solemn High-mass in our church. At the first glance he appears somewhat funny at the Altar on account of his color; but he sings with a full voice and quite correctly.
On 27 February 1887 Father Hilchenbach wrote to Father Joseph Lappe in Muehlheim, Germany, saying:

We still have no new Bishop for Alton; for over a year we have been left orphans. Here in Quincy we now have -- since last summer -- a Negro priest, the first one in the United States. He was born as a slave in Missouri, grew up at Quincy, was taught by our Fathers as far as Philosophy, then fnished his studies and was ordained at the Propaganda in Rome. In order to learn Italian, I converse with him in Italian; he can speak also German, although imperfectly, in addition to his native tongue English.
I don't remember finding any other references to Father Tolton in these letters, but I may just have to look through them again to be safe.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Fr. Daren for this post about Fr. Gus. A dear friend of mine introduced me to Fr. Gus and I've developed a great devotion to him.