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Our friend Alexis Walkenstein never disappoints during her visits to Call Me Catholic, and neither does the subject of her new book “Ex Libris Fulton J Sheen”. What an amazing story of his influence in her life and her devotion to his powerful intercession. He is a saint for our time! Adopt the Venerable Fulton Sheen as your patron and watch the miracles unfold.

Thanks, Alexis, for your thought provoking conversation!

Check out Alexis’ blog; or, contact her about doing a Fulton Sheen retreat for your parish or prayer group at







Originally broadcast on 7/28/18


CHICAGO (CNS) — The canonization cause of Father Augustus Tolton received important approval from the Vatican’s historical consultants earlier this year, moving the cause forward. 

Father Tolton, a former slave, is the first recognized U.S. diocesan priest of African descent. Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George opened his cause for canonization in 2011, giving the priest the title “servant of God.” 

The consultants in Rome ruled in March that the “positio” — a document equivalent to a doctoral dissertation on a person’s life — was acceptable and the research on Father Tolton’s life was finished, said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, postulator for the cause. 

“They have a story on a life that they deem is credible, properly documented. It bodes well for the remaining steps of scrutiny — those remaining steps being the theological commission that will make a final determination on his virtues,” Bishop Perry explained. 

It now goes to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, he said. Once the congregation’s members “approve it, then the prefect of that congregation takes the case to the pope,” he added. 

If the pope approves it, Father Tolton would be declared venerable, the next step on the way to canonization. The last two steps are beatification and canonization. In general, two approved miracles through Father Tolton’s intercession are needed for him to be beatified and canonized. 

Six historical consultants ruled unanimously on the Tolton “positio,” compiled by a team in Rome led by Andrea Ambrosi, based on hundreds of pages of research completed in Chicago. 

While working on the document, Ambrosi’s team asked Bishop Perry why it took so long to open a cause for Tolton, who died in 1897. 

“We told them that African-Americans basically had no status in the church to be considered at that time. Some people didn’t think we had souls. They were hardly poised to recommend someone to be a saint,” Bishop Perry said. “And then in those days there were hardly any saints from the United States proposed.” 

The fact that the historical consultants approved the “positio” unanimously is a positive sign, he said. The cause is scheduled to go before the theological commission in February 2019.  

Two miracles through Father Tolton’s intercession have been sent to Rome.  

“We’re hoping and our fingers are crossed and we’re praying that at least one of them might be acceptable for his beatification,” Bishop Perry said. 

Born into slavery, young Augustus fled to freedom with his mother and two siblings through the woods of northern Missouri and across the Mississippi River while being pursued by bounty hunters and soldiers. He was only 9 years old.  

The small family made their home in Quincy, Illinois, a sanctuary for runaway slaves.  

Growing up in Quincy and serving at Mass, Augustus felt a call to the priesthood, but because of rampant racism, no seminary in the United States would accept him. 

He headed to Rome, convinced he would become a missionary priest serving in Africa. However, after ordination he was sent back to his hometown to be a missionary to the community there. 

He was such a good preacher that many white people filled the pews for his Masses, along with black people. This upset the white priests in the town, who made life very difficult for him as a result. After three years, Father Tolton moved north to Chicago to minister to the black community, at the request of Archbishop Patrick Feehan. 

Father Tolton worked tirelessly for his congregation in Chicago, to the point of exhaustion. On July 9, 1897, he died of heat stroke while returning from a priests retreat. He was 43. 

Since the cause was opened, Bishop Perry and his team have given more than 170 presentations on Father Tolton around the country. They also have received inquiries about the priest from Catholics in the Philippines, Germany, Australia, Italy, France and countries in Africa. 

People receive Father Tolton’s story well, Bishop Perry said. 

“There’s also the element of surprise. … People always presume that we had black priests,” he told the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper. 

“There’s an element of surprise at how the church handled some of these more naughty issues of reception and acceptance,” said the prelate, who is African-American. “They thought that this was pretty usual, but they were surprised to see that there were certain individuals who were not so receptive to a person like (Father) Tolton and others.” 

Father Tolton did not speak out publicly against the racist abuse he encountered from his fellow Catholics. Rather, throughout his ministry, he preached that the Catholic Church was the only true liberator of blacks in America. 

“I think people generally are touched by his story, especially regarding his stamina and perseverance given what appears to be a different mood today. People don’t accept stuff thrown in their faces anymore,” Bishop Perry said.  


SAN SALVADOR (CNS) — Seated beside the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Daysi Iraheta shows enormous joy at the Vatican announcement of his beatification.

It’s a feeling shared across the small Central American country.

“I had faith that this day would finally come,” Iraheta, 77, told Catholic News Service, in the crypt of the Cathedral of San Salvador, where the archbishop is buried. “I did not want to die without living this great moment. I’m so excited.

“For me he was already a saint, and I even have an image of him carved in wood in my nightstand. But it’s nice that the Vatican has made it official,” she said, recalling how she met the archbishop in 1955 in San Miguel, where he was a parish priest. Friends managed to take a picture of the two during a confirmation ceremony.

While Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause began in 1993 , it continued for years as church officials combed through thousands of documents related to his life. Salvadorans, meanwhile, patiently waited for news of progress. The effort began moving forward under Pope Benedict XVI. In May 2007 he said: “Archbishop Romero certainly was a great witness to the faith, a man of great Christian virtue.”

The process advanced rapidly with the arrival of Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2013. From the first moments of his papacy, he showed interest in declaring Archbishop Romero a saint.

Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr Feb. 3 because he was killed “in hatred of the faith.” This meant there was no need to prove miracles for his beatification.

One day later, the postulator of the cause of canonization, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, announced at a news conference that the beatification ceremony will be held later this year in El Salvador.

“Since I heard the news, many more people have come to the crypt, they come in waves, and It’s like a big celebration in his name,” said Horacio Gonzalez, 77, who, in his spare time, volunteers to explain to cathedral visitors the context in which the archbishop was killed.

He said he has volunteered since Romero cured his arthritis two years ago. “He made the miracle,” he added.

The tomb of the murdered archbishop also is a place of pilgrimage for world leaders who visit El Salvador. Pope John Paul II visited in 1983 and 1996; President Barack Obama visited in 2011.

Although the beatification date is unknown, the Catholic officials in El Salvador have proposed that the ceremony take place in El Salvador del Mundo Square, near the center of the capital.

“We received the news with joy and gratitude to God,” Monsignor Ricardo Urioste, president of the Romero Foundation, told CNS.

Monsignor Urioste, who was vicar general under the archbishop, said that with the recognition of his martyrdom, Pope Francis has undermined the attacks on the archbishop that accused him of being manipulated by the left.

“He was accused of doing politics, and even of being a guerrilla member, but the truth always triumphs and today the truth prevailed as the pope decided to name him a martyr,” he said.

Meanwhile, the news of the beatification was received with joy by residents of Ciudad Barrios, the town 100 miles northeast of San Salvador where Romero was born in 1917.

“Here, in the cradle of Monsignor Romero, we have lived the experience in an astonishing way,” Father Gabriel Argueta, the parish priest, told CNS.

He said there has been an outpouring of happiness in the village and a spirit of collaboration among the residents to begin preparations to receive pilgrims who will want to see the archbishop’s birthplace.

“Monsignor Romero is our shepherd and we give him proudly to the world,” Father Argueta said.