Mother Mary Lange, the Black Catholic foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, will be celebrated at the order’s flagship school in Baltimore this month as part of a celebration for Catholic Schools Week, now in its 50th year.
The event, scheduled for 9am ET on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at St. Frances Academy, will commemorate Lange’s progress on the path to sainthood. Her cause reached a new milestone in summer 2023, when Pope Francis declared her “Venerable”—the last stage before possible beatification.
“The Oblate Sisters of Providence will celebrate the elevation of Mother Mary Lange to venerable status at St. Frances Academy Community Center. Archbishop William E. Lori will celebrate Mass,” the Archdiocese of Baltimore said in an announcement.
Lange is one of seven African Americans currently up for canonization in the Catholic Church, and her cause is one of the oldest among them. She has been revered as a possible saint since shortly after her death on Feb. 3, 1882, following more than five decades of service as an educator, fundraiser, and leader in religious life.
Raised in Cuba after fleeing the island of San Domingo (Hispaniola), Lange later immigrated to Baltimore and joined a growing community of Haitian descent. Despite her call to consecrated life, she was prevented from joining any existing religious order due to rampant anti-Black racism among White American Catholics.
In 1829, Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore—now the oldest extant Black Catholic religious community in the United States—and became the Church’s first-ever African-American superior general.
She was made the Church’s 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.” As of 2022, there were chapters of her sainthood guild in 16 countries around the world.
Before taking vows as a religious sister, Lange founded St. Frances Academy in 1828, which is still in operation as one of the oldest Black schools in U.S. history. It is run by the Oblate Sisters to this day.
The academy grounds will be the site of this month’s event, which joins a groundswell of support for a Black saint from the United States. There are currently no beatified or canonized African Americans in the Catholic Church, and Lange is now one of four at the “Venerable” stage.
Under normal circumstances, the Vatican requires that, in order to be declared “Blessed”—allowing an individual to become the namesake of churches and shrines—a miracle brought about by their intercession must be confirmed by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.
Her supporter-funded guild, which collects reported miracles and sends promising cases to an official investigator, can be found online at motherlange.org.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.