Four leaders of African heritage on the road to sainthood

The US Conference of Bishops web site highlights four leaders of African descent whose causes for sainthood are at some level of investigation at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1776-1853) – born a slave in Haiti, he was brought to New York and apprenticed under a popular hair stylist in the city. He became very popular among high society women. He and his wife founded one of the first orphanages and raised money for the city’s first cathedral.  Although he became free and a successful entrepreneur, he supported the church and the poor.

Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange (1784-1882) – Foundress and Superior General of the first congregation of African American women religious in the history of the Catholic Church, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The congregation would educate and evangelize African Americans. They educated youth and provided a home for orphans. Slaves who had been freed were educated and at times admitted into the congregation.

Venerable Henriette Delille (1813-1862) – Born in New Orleans, Delille was determined to help those in need for the love of Jesus and for the sake of the Gospel. Though plagued with poor health, lack of finances, resistance of the ruling class to the idea of forming a black religious congregation and lack of support from the church itself, in 1842 she founded the Congregation of the Holy Family.

Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) – He was the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States publicly known to be black when he was ordained in 1886. A former slave who was baptized and reared Catholic, Tolton studied formally in Rome. Fr. Tolton led the development and construction of St. Monica’s Catholic Church as a black ‘National Parish Church”, completed in 1893.

For more on Black Catholic saints to-be, click here.