Thursday I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to many of the places associated with the life of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, whose Cause for Beatification and Canonization has begun.
I left Springfield at 6:45 a.m. to drive to St. Peter's church in Brush Creek, Missouri where Father Tolton was baptized. There Bishop Paprocki and I would meet the other pilgrims. The church is located in the midst of fields and the road leading to it is covered with gravel.
Having grown up in Quincy, I had some idea of the land across which she fled but the reality of what that night must have been like never really hit home. Until I drove the roads crisscrossing the land she ran, all the while trying to keep her children calm and quiet so as not to be noticed. There is - quite literally - nothing in the area of Brush Creek, not even any real physical landmarks. It is simply fields and trees, the landscape looking the same in every direction. She must have been a woman of extraordinary courage, of a courage that matched her faith.
Coming along the gravel road you round a curve and suddenly you see a large iron archway marking the tree-lined entrance to the church yard.
|The entrance to the church yard of St. Peter church, Brush Creek, Missouri.|
|The tree-lined drive leading to St. Peter's church, Brush Creek, Missouri.|
|St. Peter church, Brush Creek, Missouri, the site at which Father Tolton was baptized.|
To the right of the church is an L-shaped cemetery that wraps around the back of the church with graves from the late 1700s.
Stephen Elliott owned the Toltons and is far is about two miles from the church. Martha must also have been a strong woman. To care for three young children and a husband and to work in the fields throughout the week and then walk two miles each way to Mass every Sunday is no small feat.
We celebrated Mass in the church presided over by Cardinal George. Bishop Gaydos preached an excellent homily, reflecting on the readings of the day in light of the life of Father Tolton.
After the Mass we had a small reception with many of the local residents who lovingly care for their church in which Mass is celebrated but twice each year. Each of the residents have their own tasks to fulfill and they do so gladly. Their love of and devotion to Father Tolton is quite evident.
|The Tolton pilgrims with many of the local residents of Brush Creek, Missouri after Mass in St. Peter church.|
|Bishop Gaydos, the owners of the site of the Elliott farm, Cardinal George, Bishop Perry and Bishop Paprocki.|
The grandfather - I believe - of the present owner (whose name I regret I do not remember) bought the property from Stephen Elliott.
From the farm we made our way to Hannibal, Missouri to place at which it is believed Martha crossed the Mississippi River with her children.
More to come.