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Tolton: From Slave to Priest

Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office for Black Catholics

Tuesday, September 25, 2018 from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM

Tolton: From Slave to Priest

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General Admission Seating Sep 3, 2018 $10.00 $0.00

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Event Details

Tolton: From Slave to Priest is a professional Catholic theater production based on the life of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest. This live, one-man multimedia drama opened in October 2017, and is currently on a national tour, performing in venues such as churches, schools, and theaters. Tolton features all elements of professional theater, including set, lighting effects, video elements, and an original musical score.

Writer and director Leonardo Defilippis was originally inspired to produce Tolton while on tour in the Diocese of Springfield. “I gave a performance at St. Boniface Church in Quincy, Illnois, and there I encountered Augustus Tolton,” he explains. “I immediately began considering his life as a dramatic subject.” The late Francis Cardinal George not only encouraged Defilippis’ idea, but also sent financial support for the project shortly before his death in 2015.

Fr. Tolton’s compelling story has the potential to renew the faith of Catholics of every ethnicity, encourage vocations, bring hope to communities desperately in need of healing, and inspire all to work for reconciliation and peace by following his heroic example. “I pray that all can know Fr. Tolton’s holiness and friendship.” says Defilippis. “I also pray that through this project, African Americans will no longer wonder if their story – which is really our story – is worth hearing.”



About Father Tolton

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 hardships 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 the 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 to forgive my persecutors,” he said. “We should welcome all people into the Church, not send them away.”

At the young ages of 43, Fr. Tolton 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.

About the 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 of Roger Parker in the hit Nickelodeon show My Brother and Me. “Father Tolton’s story needs to be told,” says Jim. “As a black man, this very important part of history is something that I want the world to hear about. I truly feel blessed to be the one to share Father Augustus Tolton with all who will listen!”

Jim and his wife Robin reside in Florida; they are the proud parents of six children



Have questions about Tolton: From Slave to Priest? Contact Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office for Black Catholics

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Venue map / La Salle University

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    When & Where


    La Salle University
    Dan Rodden Theater
    1900 West Olney Avenue
    Philadelphia, PA 19141

    Tuesday, September 25, 2018 from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM


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