Nobody seems quite certain of how many saints there actually are, but the Catholic Exchange estimates it at about 810, not counting those currently being considered for sainthood or only got halfway there. If canonized, Mother Mary Lange will be the first African-American saint. Henriette Delille, the African-American female founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, is also in the process of canonization.
According to Clutch Magazine,
A Baltimore nun who initiated the world’s first black Catholic order has begun the process to sainthood. The remains of Mother Mary Lange, who started the order in 1829, have been returned to the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The Haiti-born, Cuban-raised nun was initially buried in Baltimore, but was welcomed to the order’s cemetery this week.
The Archdiocese believes Sister Lange is deserving of canonization for her role in spreading Catholicism through love, especially during a time when people of color were enslaved throughout the North and the South.
“She had many, many obstacles–among them racial prejudice and hatred–and her love overcame that in her life,” said Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori.
Free education for African-American children didn’t exist when Lange immigrated to Maryland in 1868, so opened a school in her home. She and Marie Magdaleine Balas – later known as Sister Frances – owned and operated the school for over 10 years.
Her love for mankind didn’t end there. Lange was encouraged by Reverend James Hector Joubert, the former Archbishop of Baltimore, to open a religious convent for the education of girls of color. It would be the first African-American religious order in the history of the Catholic Church and would spread the word of God to communities of color.
On July 2, 1829, Lange – who was born with the first name Elizabeth – and three other founders professed their love for God and became the Oblate Sisters of Providence. She accepted the religious name of Mary and served as the order’s superior general until 1832 and then again from 1835 to 1841.
The Oblate Sisters were active in the Baltimore community, sheltering orphans and the elderly, nursing the ill, and accepting and educating free slaves about Catholicism. The women also served as domestics at Saint Mary’s Seminary.
Lange died February 3, 1882 at Saint Frances Convent in Baltimore, her work has continued to inspire. She was influential in Africa, Cuba, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, leading to worldwide recognition and respect. The first American school was named after her in 2005, when three local Baltimore schools – St. Dominic School, Shrine of the Little Flower and St. Anthony of Padua – combined to form the Mother Mary Lange Catholic School.