Chicago Archdiocese priest in town to push sainthood cause
The Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, the auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese and a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, tackled the issue about the division — along denominational and ideological lines — among those of the Christian faith.
During a question-and-answer session, he invited an ecumenical group to ask him anything about his Sunday homily, his advocacy for the sainthood for the Rev. Augustus Tolton or any other questions. Part of the event featured the naming of 14 Tolton ambassadors to advance the canonization effort.
“Sometimes it is semantics,” Perry said in addressing the group on Aug. 6 at St. Raymond Penafort Church. “People will say that Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons are not Christians. Some truly believe that certain Protestants or others who believe in Christ are not Christians.
“What I tell people is that the Catholic Church is the Mother Church of all Christians. I have had this discussion with those who have studied theology and history. They know who the Mother Church for Christians is, but some will choose to label us. We know that there are different traditions, families and churches who believe in Jesus Christ, but understand him differently,” Perry said.
Cecilia Wilson, a member of the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, agreed.
She said she and her friend, an Episcopalian, attended the Catholic Mass and stayed for Perry’s session because they believed in ecumenism.
“I am really looking forward to an ecumenical group of Christians coming together to support causes like the sainthood of Father Tolton,” said Wilson, who attends the church at Broad Street and Chelten Avenue and is a 1985 graduate of the former Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, now the United Lutheran Seminary.
“When I read about the cause in the newspaper last year I knew it was something I wanted to support. God has work for all of us to do without thinking that this one is Catholic and that one is Protestant. There is so much we can do together,” she added.
Mary Jackson, who was baptized a Methodist, said that it was time for Christians to come together on issues of mutual concern. She said that she came to hear Perry and to learn more about the sainthood push for Tolton, whose ordination on April 24, 1886, made him the first known Black Catholic priest in the United States.
“I am not a Catholic nor plan to be, but I know that we are all Christians,” she said. “I know that I thank the Catholic Church for preserving the Holy Bible through the centuries, the one that we, Protestants, take to church with us on Sunday. I thank them for providing me the opportunity to have attended parochial schools growing up--that have greatly benefited me.
“So, some have asked me why I would set foot in a Catholic church or talk about someone becoming a saint. I tell them God is love. I say we are all Christians and need to love each other, even though we may worship or interpret the Holy Bible differently,” added Jackson, a resident of the city’s Germantown section.
While Perry said he welcomed the spirit of ecumenism in sainthood causes for African Americans, like Tolton, he did share a word of caution: “While we welcome other Christians to join us in the cause, know that this is not just preserving a historical legacy of say someone like, Frederick Douglass or Malcolm X. This is the about canonization of saint.”