Black Baltimore Nun is on Her Way to Sainthood

The remains of a Baltimore nun, who started the world’s first black Catholic Order, have moved to Our Lady of Mount Providence Church as one of the first steps in potential sainthood.

According to “1st Order of African American Nuns Pray Its Founder Will Be Made Saint” for CBS Baltimore, the Oblate Sisters of Providence welcomed the remains of their founder, Mother Mary Lange, to their home church from a cemetery in Baltimore.

Lange was born Elizabeth Clarisse Lange circa 1784 in Cuba. In the early 1800’s, Lange moved to Baltimore, Maryland, a safe haven for Catholics, to be with fellow French-Speaking Catholic Refugees. Upon moving to the United States, Lange recognized the need of education among refugee children of color, and on July 2nd, 1829 Lange along with three other women founded the order. The Sisters while educating the youth, provided homes for orphans, sheltered the elderly and took care of the terminally ill. The order also found St. Frances Academy, which is still in operation today.

Lange’s posthumous move to her founding church is one of the first steps in the long road to sainthood. This move will allow her body to be worshipped and viewed by persons. However, this is not the first step made in the name of Lange to become a saint.

The first petition for canonization came in 1991 when the Vatican launched an investigation into her works. Cardinal William H. Keller, Archbishop of Baltimore at the time, finished the investigation in 2004, and sent it to the Vatican.

The next step is to have an investigation into the potential saints writing by the Vatican to make sure there is nothing heretical. Once this is gathered it is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

After this, the potential saint will be determined if they lived a life of heroic value. If they did, they will be declared Venerable. Once accepted as Venerable, the next step is beatification, or a miracle must be done in the potential saints name, and must be verified by the Church. The final step is to have another miracle declared in their name. Once the second miracle is verified, there is a formal declaration of sainthood.

Currently, the next step in Mother Mary Lange’s canonization is proof she lived a “heroic life”, which is being written by Vatican official, Brother Reginald Cruz. Cruz will finish the 800-page-thesis, entitled “Positio”, next month and will submit it to the Vatican. The process of two verified miracles can take an unknown amount of time.

Although, Mother Mary Lange canonization seems to be only by a matter of time, she will not be the first saint of African descent. Saints of African descent number in the hundreds, and there have three popes of African descent, however there are no African-American Saints. Currently, Henriette Delille, an African-American Woman who founded the order of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, is in the process of canonization.

However, the Catholic Church is not ignoring the works of Mother Mary Lange for children of color in America, and will recognize her efforts in time.

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown or check out her website, or contact her at

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