We are fast approaching THANKSGIVING. Hard to imagine how fast this year has gone by. It is important to slow down enough to appreciate this day of giving thanks.
This holiday has two words, Thanks and Giving. Both are the mark of a messenger and follower of Jesus. Thanks for all the blessings we have and a pledge to continue giving to others.
I especially thank God for the faith He has given to me…reminding me of all those who have to fight so hard to live this gift.
I just came back from a parish mission in Monroe City, Missouri. The area where the first black priest came from. Fr. Augustus Tolton, who along with his family were slaves here in the northeast part of Missouri. His mother managed to escape with her three children to Quincy, Illinois after her husband joined the army. They were very fortunate to survive. A priest in Quincy took them in and vigorously fought the prejudice against the Tolton family. Eventually Augustus wanted to be a priest, but there was no seminary in United States who would take him since he was black. The Franciscans then brought him to Rome and he was able to study for the priesthood there and eventually was ordained. Cardinal Simeoni sent Augustus back to the United States telling him that U.S. church owed it to herself to have the first priest of African descent.
When Augustus returned to Quincy, he was greeted with opposition from Protestants and Catholics. The prejudice was as strong as ever towards him. Eventually Archbishop Feehan of Chicago invited him to come and minister there. His ministry was restricted to the African-American community. Inequality continued with the Supreme Court decision 7-1, in 1896 endorsing the social doctrine of separate but equal which gave rise to separate drinking fountains, washrooms, places on public transportation, schools and so on. This was the world Fr. Gus knew and within which he died. He was only 43. Today, Bishop Perry of Chicago and our church has begun the process of the canonization of Fr. Tolton.
He had such unwavering faith in God and in serving people. I will take time this thanksgiving to thank God for these people who gave such great examples of why we have a holiday to Thank God. I hope and pray your day is filled with laughter, joy and of course faith.