Two Archdiocese of Chicago Parishes to Establish the Tolton Spirituality Center with Support from Lilly Endowment Grant

St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, in Chicago, with the help of a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., will establish the Tolton Spirituality Center, a non-profit clearinghouse and community hub to build upon the life and legacy of Venerable Augustus Tolton – a former slave and first black priest in the United States. St. Ambrose Parish, also in Chicago, will collaborate on the project. The effort is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative, a national initiative to strengthen Christian congregations to help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.
“We are quite pleased that Lilly Endowment saw value in this dream of local lay Catholics to assist participating parishes in drawing upon the inspiration of Fr. Augustus Tolton with his efforts to build a thriving parish among black Catholics in 1890s Chicago, St. Monica Church of 36th Dearborn Street,” said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, postulator of Tolton’s canonization cause. “We look forward to the next several years of programming with Fr. Tolton’s blessing.”
Through the formation of parish-based leadership teams supported by community partners, the Tolton Spirituality Center will strengthen existing efforts and develop new programs and ministries to animate the tangible gifts and prophetic witness of Fr. Tolton. Working as a model, this collaborative learning journey will provide the education and practical resources to help those congregations who accept the invitation to participate and learn how to apply the fundamental principles of Fr. Tolton’s spirituality to build a more sustainable and mission-focused Church.
The Lilly Endowment will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.
The Lilly grant is separate from Tolton’s cause for canonization. St. Thomas the Apostle Parish is one of 92 organizations across the nation receiving grants through the Thriving Congregations Initiative. The organizations represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as non denominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American traditions.
“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.