Chicago Tribune 1894

The Chicago Tribune

January 15, 1894

Ceremonies at the Dedication of St. Monica’s Are Impressive

St. Monica’s Church was dedicated yesterday with impressive services.  It is the first Catholic church in this city to be built by colored people.  More than this, it is the first church of the kind constructed in this State and probably the only Catholic church in the West that has been built by colored members of that faith for their own use.  The pastor of St. Monica’s is the Rev. Father Augustus Tolton and the handsome edifice at the corner of Thirty-sixth and Dearborn streets will stand as a monument to his untiring labor in behalf of the church of his adoption.  Assisting the pastor yesterday in the dedicatory services were Father Maximillian, O.S.F., the celebrant of the solemn high mass, and Father Hodnett, pastor of St. Malachy’s Church, who delivered the sermon.  In his address Father Hodnett congratulated the members upon the distinction of being pioneers among their people in the creditable work of erecting a church for worship according to the faith of the Catholics.

At present but the lower story of the building is finished.  It is intended to build another story later, and then the portion now finished will be used for an assembly room for the ordinary meetings incidental to a church.  The building fronts on Dearborn street, is 70 x 123 feet and substantially built.  The contract for the building is in the hands of G.W. Brown, a colored man.  Work was commenced last august, and it is hoped that it will be completed by July of this year.

Father Tolton was born in Rawls County, MO., and soon after his entry into the ministry was summoned to Rome, where his clerical education was completed.  In him the Catholic Church saw a valuable ally.  Archbishop Feehan induced Father Tolton to come to this city and begin the work of building a church.  This he has accomplished after four years of hard work, and he is naturally much pleased at the success of his efforts. There are in this city about 140 families of colored people who profess the Catholic faith.  Of this number fifty families live on the South Side convenient to the new church.  Those colored people who have come here from the extreme South are mostly Catholics. Particularly is this true of those who were born on the plantations of French residents of the South.

Eight hundred is the number of his people that Father Tolton estimates to be in this city and of his religious belief, and he predicts that the membership will rapidly increase. There were vespers at the church yesterday afternoon and there will be regular Sunday services hereafter.