LAKE CHARLES — Several clergy from the Diocese of Lake Charles were among those honored at the second annual Tolton Gala on Saturday, October 28, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. The special event was sponsored by the Tolton Ambassadors Louisiana and Tolton Associates.
The Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry, J.C.L., D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was the guest speaker for gala, beginning with Mass.
The gala’s purpose was to support the canonization of the Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), the first recognizably Roman Catholic priest of African descent in the United States. On June 11, 2019, Pope Francis advanced Father Tolton to the title “Venerable” along the process for his canonization to sainthood.
Tolton persevered against all odds to become a priest, and his life of devotion and service to Catholics of all races during challenging times in America is exemplary. Bishop Perry is postulator of the priest’s cause for sainthood.
“We want to keep the story alive, the memory of Venerable Tolton alive in hopes that people’s financial support and his cause and to keep the prayer going that God will grant us this honor,” Bishop Perry said.
Father Tolton was ordained in Rome in 1886. Formerly enslaved, he was the first African American priest to address the subtle particulars of the 19th century racial prejudice found in society and the Church.
Awards at the gala were presented in five categories:
- Postulator’s Award
- Father Peter McGirr Award
- Tolton Award
- Peter Paul and Martha Jane Award
- Anne Tolton Pettis Award
Deacon Fred Reed, who serves St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Westlake, was honored with the Postulator’s Award for a life given to liturgical ministry as a servant leader.
The Father Peter McGirr Award was presented to Rev. Ruben J. Buller, Pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Vicar General for the Diocese of Lake Charles. The award honors a life example of pastoral care as a servant leader.
Rev. Timothy Goodly, Pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Sulphur, was honored with the Tolton Award for a life of priestly ministry as a servant leader.
Mr. and Mrs. Rapheal (Theresa) Lavergne, parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Lake Charles, were recognized with the Peter Paul and Martha Jane Award, named for Father Tolton’s parents, honoring the bond of marriage lived out as servant leaders.
The Anne Tolton Pettis Award was presented to Stephanie Bernard, Director of the Offices of Black Catholic Ministry and Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Lafayette. This honor recognizes a life devoted to the Eucharist as a servant leader. The award is named after Father Augustus Tolton’s sister, Anne, who was a dedicated supporter of her brother’s priestly ministry.
Also presented at the gala was the inaugural Rev. Canon Gerard Jordan Scholarship in the amount of $500 given to Jorquetta Saner of Evergreen Baptist Church. She attends the University of Houston-Clear Lake and is enrolled in an accelerated program for professional accounting.
Canon Jordan was an advocate for young mothers who sought to further their education for a better life. He was educated by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament while attending Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School and graduated from St. Louis Catholic High School.
The gala and the Mass were a time of giving, instruction and reflection to focus on the needs and common goals that serve the Church as well as the community at large. Chairperson for the Tolton Gala was Altha M. Jordan Green, and Michelle Jackson served as Co-Chair.