Nate Tinner-Williams has the scoop at Black Catholic Messenger:

Pope Francis has declared as venerable Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, the Cuban-born foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first Black Catholic religious order in the United States.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, published decrees on Thursday morning affirming the “heroic virtues” of Lange and four others, immediately following authorization from the pope during a private audience.

“Convinced of the power of Providence against all forces of evil, she managed to carry out her educational role, showing in her mission great charity, even for enemies, and a profound sense of justice,” reads her new biography on the dicastery website.

“Her reputation for holiness has spread in the United States and to various other countries where the Oblate Sisters of Providence are present, combined with a certain fama signorum.”

Raised in Cuba after fleeing the island of San Domingo (Hispaniola) as a child, Lange immigrated to Baltimore and founded the Oblate Sisters in 1829. Despite her clear call to consecrated life, she had been prevented from joining any existing congregation due to rampant anti-Black racism among White American Catholics.

Named the first Black superior general in U.S. history, Lange led the new order as it dedicated itself primarily to education, teaching in Black Catholic schools and also performing domestic work. Their operations later expanded across the country, and also 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.” As of 2022, there were chapters of her sainthood guild in 16 countries around the world.

As part of the process for her sainthood cause, Lange’s remains were exhumed and examined before being reinterred in the Oblate Sisters’ motherhouse chapel in Baltimore in 2013. The sisters celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the event on June 3.

Read more at Black Catholic Messenger.

For a quick introduction to the life of Venerable Mary, you might want to check out this short video biography of her life, courtesy of the Black Catholic ministry of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

This video by Catholic Relief Services, which is headquartered in Baltimore, discusses the life of Mother Mary Lange, while also discussing the way her legacy continues through providing education for those in need and the work of the order of Oblates that she founded:

Venerable Mary Lange is one of six US Black Catholics on the road to sainthood. As a lifelong Marylander, the advancement of her cause is also source of home-state pride, because she lived and ministered in nearby Baltimore. Saints with ties to my home state include St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Emmitsburg), St. John Neumann (who served in Elkridge and Baltimore before becoming Bishop of Philadelphia). Also with a strong connection to Maryland is Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a 19th century Redemptorist missionary (like Neumann) who served in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Cumberland (in Western Maryland).

Image: Venerable Mary Lange. 

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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