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Lilly Endowment Grant Helps Two Archdiocese of Chicago Parishes Establish the Tolton Spirituality Center in 2020

St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, in Chicago started the Tolton Spirituality Center, a nonprofit clearinghouse and community hub to build upon the life and legacy of Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton – a former slave and first recognized black priest in the United States. St. Ambrose Parish, also in Chicago, collaborated on the project. The effort is funded through a grant from the 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.
Through the formation of parish-based leadership teams supported by community partners, the Tolton Spirituality Center will strengthen existing efforts and develop 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 supports 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 the Tolton cause for canonization, the Catholic Church's process for determining sainthood. St. Thomas the Apostle Parish is one of 92 organizations across the nation that received 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.
Lilly Endowment Inc. launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

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