15 June 2011

On Tolton and ecclesial unity

I am presently reading through a brief biography of Father Tolton compiled by our Diocesan Archivist.  In it she provides a few sentences about the Catholics of Quincy Father Tolton wrote to a friend:
Catholics will love and respect a priest regardless of nationality; at least that is the spirit of those people in the Gem City who knew me for twenty-nine years.  Never will they forget the happy hours spent in little St. Joseph church.  I wish them all the blessings that can be bestowed upon them, for that charitable spirit that they have always shown toward me and the colored children.
Father Tolton left the Gem City in November of 1889, driven away by the prejudice he experienced from a fellow priest who should have looked upon him not only as a collaborator for the Gospel but also as a brother in Christ, a brother who shared with him the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  From the laity of Quincy Father Tolton received much admiration.  When he departed for Chicago, he was given a gift of $75 by his white Catholic friends.

Father Tolton's words are a great honor given to the people of Quincy and it brought joy to my heart to read these words for the first time this evening.  I pray that Father Tolton could say these same words about Quincyans today, indeed about each of us.

Father Tolton's words are reminder to us of the universality of the Catholic Church.  The word 'Catholic' comes from two Greek words: kata (meaning 'concerning') and holos (meaning 'whole').  When toward together, the words mean 'universal.'

When Christ Jesus established his Church he did not establish a club in which membership had to be earned or bought.  He established his Church for all people to be present in every time and place.  Father Tolton's ministry among both blacks and whites reminds us of this profound reality.

Let us pray that Father Tolton's example will remind every Catholic that, regardless of our race or ethnicity, we are all one in the Body of Christ that is the Church.

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