On Saturday, June 3, the Oblate Sisters of Providence will host a special Mass commemorating their foundress Servant of God Mary Lange’s reinterment at Our Lady of Mount Providence Convent in Baltimore.
Announced earlier this month, it will be celebrated by Fr Paul Zaborowski, OFM Cap., who also said the liturgy at the original occasion in 2013, roughly two decades after Lange’s sainthood cause was first introduced.
“Join the Oblate Sisters of Providence as they have a Mass of celebration commemorating [the] 10th anniversary of bringing Mother Mary Lange’s remains for internment at the motherhouse,” reads an event description from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The event follows a recommitment ceremony earlier this year for the Mother Mary Lange Guild, which promotes her sanctity and whose members annually dedicate themselves to the collective effort on or near her feast day, February 3. This year it was held on February 4 and marked the 141st anniversary of her death.
Shortly thereafter, on March 5, the Oblate Sisters announced at the annual Mother Lange Awards that the positio for Lange’s sainthood cause, which officially details her life, had received approval from the Vatican’s historical commission. The order was notified via email in late February, and the document will now go before the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for review. Should that process be successful, Pope Francis could declare Lange “Venerable,” the last step before beatification.
Raised in Cuba after fleeing the island of San Domingo (Hispaniola) as a child, Lange immigrated to Baltimore and founded the Oblates in 1829 as the first African-American Catholic religious order in history. Despite her clear call to consecrated life, she had been prevented from joining an existing congregation due to the rampant racism in the U.S. Church at the time.
The newly formed order dedicated itself primarily to education, teaching in Black Catholic schools and also performing domestic work. Their operations later expanded across the country, and even into the Caribbean and Central America.
Following her death in 1882, Lange became the third African-American sainthood candidate when her cause was opened by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore in 1991, granting her the title “Servant of God.” She is now one of seven such individuals and, as of 2022, there were chapters of her sainthood guild in 16 countries around the world.
Lange was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame the same year her sainthood cause was opened, and she has been the namesake of multiple Catholic schools in Baltimore. A Spanish-language documentary on her order’s work in Cuba was released in 2021, and Lange was also featured in a documentary on the African-American Catholic saints-to-be in early 2022.
As part of the process for her sainthood cause, her remains were exhumed and examined before being reinterred in the convent chapel in Baltimore. Lange had previously been buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery, and the canonical transfer was presided over by Archbishop William Lori.
“Throughout her lifetime, a wonderful legacy of love, service, education, reaching out to the sick, serving the poor, bearing witness to human dignity was compiled,” he said during the event in 2013.
Saturday’s commemoration of the reinterment will take place at 10am ET in the motherhouse and is open to the public. A livestream will be available on the Oblate Sisters’ Facebook page.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.