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From Slave to Priest: A Biography of the Reverend Augustine Tolton (1854-1897) First Black American Priest of the United States Hardcover – August 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158617097X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586170974
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By annie VINE VOICE on May 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
How does one write a review about book like this? The title alone tells such an incredible story, you know you will have to read it. Augustine Tolton was born a slave of wonderful parents. His father escaped slavery and fought and died for the Union Army in the Civil War. His mother made a dangerous journey North with three small children to find a better life for her children.

Augustine Tolton wanted more than anything to be a priest, to bring Jesus to all people, and yet he was denied entrance into the seminaries in the United States because he was black. Finally, after many years of being turned away, he was received into the seminary in Rome through the efforts of priest friends of his. His life was not long, and yet the work he did was incredible despite the many obstacles he faced. Often times God calls others to finish the work started by great people. Father Augustine Tolton was truly a Man of God.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan F. Sullivan on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sr. Caroline Hemesath recounts for us the inspirational story of the first black Catholic priest in the United States with this book (originally published in 1973 and re-issued in 2006). Although she did a fair amount of research and interviews for the book (as evidenced by the bibliography), Sr. Hemesath presents Fr. Tolton's life in a series of fictionalized vignettes, a sort of "speculative biography." The result is, if not 100% accurate, extremely readable and provides a good picture of what Fr. Tolton's life was probably like.

She is particularly adept at presenting the trials Fr. Tolton endured: the constant rejection by seminaries in his own country, the years spent building up money to pay for studies in Rome, the harassment at the hands of a fellow priest in Quincy. His was not a happy life, insofar as he never seems to have found a place to truly call home where he could be a simple pastor (which seems to have been his only real wish).

On the other hand, his trials never diminished his love of the Church, even in its human brokenness, and Sr. Hemesath gives us a real sense of Fr. Tolton's anguish -- a cross of racism, hate and bigotry -- and joys in his life. Rather than bemoan his fortune Fr. Tolton sought one thing only: to serve God and his people. I highly recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mom of 6 on December 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was recommended as a book for my high schooler to read while studying the Recovery period of American History. I read it while on vacation and couldn't put it down. The story of Augustine Tolton is sad and poignant, yet so inspiring. This man had a true calling, and had the inner strength and grace to persevere against overwhelming obstacles. The undying support of his mother, as well as a few mentors, are inspirational examples of true charity and moral courage. Even after becoming a priest, Tolton remained a slave -- a willing slave to the duties of his state in life, a slave of love and of service, which is what God demands of all. If this book becomes available on CD, I would like to get it for all of the truly devoted priests that I know.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Hearn on May 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent look into the life struggles that African Americans faced long after their freedom was granted. A sensitive account of the real fear, sacrifice and patient endurance that this young man and his family endured. It is a testament to his faith in God and willingness to adjust his own expectations and accept God's plan for his life; he was always a tool for spreading the love of God and salvation through Christ. If ever there was an account of someone taking lemons and making lemonaide, this is it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on September 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading biographies Religious and I have a particular interest in the Civil War era and escaped slaves.

Augustine Tolton escaped slavery with his mother and two siblings when he was 8 years old. He had belonged to a Catholic family that had brought their slaves up in the religion. Augustine was always taken with the Faith, though the hypocrisy of his slave owners did not escape him. As a boy growing up in Quincy, Illinois he soon knew that he wanted to be a priest but didn't think it was possible for a black person. With the encouragement of his local priest, he let his dream take hold of him and aspired to the day he could be a priest and pastor to his own people. Augustine was unshaken in determination that Catholicism was the true religion for his people.

At this time, just after the Civil War, though, it seems the Church in the US didn't know what to do with a Negro who wanted to be a priest. Augustine had already met prejudice when parishioners who had no problem with the black population in the pews were aghast at his showing up in the school with their children. And if not for an Irish priest who preached fire and brimstone to his parish about the equality of *all* men in God's eyes every day until they dared not complain anymore, Augustine would not have received his basic education. But then came the time to study for priesthood and his local priests tried to get him into every single seminary in the US and each one declined with some version of "we are not ready". Various priests in the diocese tutored Augustine in the evenings as he worked during the day to support his family. Much time passed and it weighed heavily on his heart that he may never become a priest.
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