From Slave to Priest

The Journey in Faith team at St. Joseph Catholic Church is presenting Tolton: 

 From Slave to Priest, the live theatrical one-man drama performed by actor Jim Coleman and directed by Leonardo Defilippis of St. Louis Productions. One performance only of the play will be presented on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at

4:00 pm at the Lakeshore High School Auditorium.  Admission is $5.00 per individual and additional free-will donations will be accepted to help defray the costs of the production.

Tolton: From Slave to Priest is a powerful new live production based on the life of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest.  The compelling true story of courage, forgiveness and reconciliation resonates deeply with modern American audiences.  Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, postulator for Fr. Tolton’s canonization cause, is calling Tolton a production that will “inspire a new era of peace, hope and forgiveness in America.”

Fr. Robert Creagan was instrumental in bringing this production to Southwestern Michigan.  “When I first heard about the Tolton production, I wondered how to bring it to the Diocese,” said Fr. Creagan.  “The JIF team did not hesitate to coordinate the event.  Fr. Tolton's heroic virtues are timely.  Here is a story of reconciliation and healing.  His cause for 

beatification and canonization are moving at the Vatican.    In the meantime, 

I hope that Tolton can promote evangelization and confront racial injustice."

Tolton is a riveting multimedia not to be missed.  The production runs 75 minutes and is suitable for middle school age and up. This live, one-man multimedia drama opened in October 2017, and is currently on a national tour featuring all the elements of professional theater, including set, lighting effects, video elements, and an original musical score.  The actor will be available after the performance for autographs.

To characterize Fr. Augustus Tolton’s life as remarkable is an understatement.  He was born a slave on a Missouri farm in 1854, and his mother risked everything to reach freedom in Illinois with her three small children.  After settling in the town of Quincy, Illinois, the family continued to experience hardship and prejudice.  In spite of this, he persevered in his deep desire to become a Catholic priest.  When every seminary in the United States rejected him, Augustus did not give up, and he was finally ordained in Rome.  Upon his return to Illinois, Fr. Tolton worked tirelessly to serve people of all races, especially former slaves who flocked to Chicago.

Fr. Tolton saw the Catholic Church as the antidote to the discrimination and rejection that he experienced in his own life.  “It was the priests of the Church who taught me to pray and forgive my persecutors,” he said.  “We should welcome all people into the Church, not send them away.”

At the young age of 43, Fr. Tilton died after collapsing from heat exhaustion in Chicago.  Now his cause for sainthood is moving forward, as more and more people are beginning to recognize the humble perseverance, courage, and compassion of this extraordinary man.

Actor Jim Coleman is excited and honored to be playing the role of Father 

Tolton.  Prior to his acting career, he served in the US Army as a medic.  

Having appeared in more than 50 national commercials, Jim is best known for his role as Roger Parker in the hit Nickelodeon show, My Brother and Me.

“Father Tolton’s story needs to be told,” says Coleman.  “As a black man, this very important part of history is something I want the world to hear about.  I feel truly blessed to be the one to share Father Augustus Tolton with all who will listen!”

The Journey in Faith team is comprised of members of St. Joseph Catholic Church to provide adult programs to inspire and promote spiritual growth as people move on their “journey in faith” in life.  The team promotes a number of activities during the year, including music, scripture and prayer elements.  Even though the Journey in Faith activities are sponsored by St. 

Joseph Catholic Church, members of all faith traditions are invited to attend activities.

More information is available by calling the St. Joseph Catholic Church office at 983.1575.


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