Tuesday, November 5, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Mother Mary Lange

If Mother Mary Lange, OSP, is canonized, she will become the first black American woman saint.

Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born in the late 18th century in what is now Haiti (some sources claim she was born in Cuba) to a wealthy family.
By 1813 or so, she was living in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was part of a community of French-speaking black Catholics. By the 1820s, she was educating black children in her home at her expense. In 1828, a priest approached her and two other black women about teaching more children and she explained that what she wanted most of all was to dedicate her life to God and become a nun.

Although no black women were nuns in the U.S. at that time, the priest and archbishop of the diocese agreed to sponsor her. She took vows and became known as Sister Mary in 1828, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

She established and was the first superior general of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, which was the world's first order of nuns founded by a woman of African heritage. As part of the order, she nursed the sick during a cholera epidemic and worked as a domestic at a seminary, among other tasks, according to the Mother Lange Guild. After the Civil War, when black children who had been orphaned by the war came to Baltimore in droves, Mother Mary Lange headed efforts to care for them.

She died on Feb. 3, 1882, well into her 90s.

In 1991, with the approval of the Vatican, William Cardinal Keeler, then Baltimore's Archbishop, opened the formal investigation of Mother Mary Lange's life which many hope will lead to her canonization.

Read more about Mother Mary Lange at a website devoted to the cause for her canonization.

(Image via National Catholic Review)

Follow my National Black Catholic History Month tag for more information about black Catholic notables.

No comments:

Post a Comment