On July 24, 1990 the Black Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month. In November, we celebrate the long and storied history and heritage of Black Catholics. There is one Black Catholic in particular whom we pray will be declared a saint. Her name is Mother Mary Lange.Born in 1794, Mother Mary Lange founded the first religious order for women of African heritage. She was born in Cuba of San Domingan parents and made her way to the United States in the early 1800’s, settling right here in our Archdiocese of Baltimore. It was here in Baltimore that she found a large community of French-speaking Dominican Catholics. As a well-educated woman, Mother Mary Lange recognized the needs of other immigrants for education and opened a school for Black children in her home. This school was later named the Saint Frances Academy and is the oldest Black Catholic School in the United States. Today it is located at 501 East Chase Street.
Despite being a Black woman, living during the pre-Emancipation Proclamation era, and in a state where it was against the law to teach Black people, Mother Mary Lange persevered. In 1829, with two other women, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was founded. Under her leadership and guidance, the order established an orphanage, expanded the school, opened a home for widows, nursed those with cholera, and ministered to the Caribbean-American and the African-American community.
Today the Oblate Sisters of Providence continue the works and good deeds of their foundress throughout the world. Like their foundress, “their sole wish is to do the will of God.”
Mother Mary Lange died on February 3, 1882. In 1991, the Archdiocese of Baltimore began the process for the canonization process that will make Mother Marge Lang the first African-American saint.
I invite everyone to pray for her canonization by praying this prayer, for “when prayers go up blessing do come down.”
Prayer for the Beatification of Mother Mary Lange
“Almighty and Eternal God, You granted Mother Mary Lange extraordinary trust in Your providence. You endowed her with humility, courage, holiness and an extraordinary sense of service to the poor and sick. You enabled her to found the Oblate Sisters of Providence and provide educational, social and spiritual ministry especially to the African American community. Mother Lange’s love for all enabled her to see Christ in each person, and the pain of prejudice and racial hatred never blurred her vision.
Deign to raise her the highest honors of the altar in order that, through her intercession, more souls may come to a deeper understanding and a more fervent love of You.
Heavenly Father, glorify Your heart by granting also this favor (here mention your request) which we ask through the intercession of Your faithful servant, Mother Mary Lange.”