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Pope Francis Advances Cause for Sainthood of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange

In a significant step toward canonization, Pope Francis has officially recognized the heroic virtue of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, a Black religious sister who founded the first African American religious congregation in Baltimore in 1829. The Vatican announced the recognition and advancement of Lange's cause from "servant of God" to "venerable" in a decree signed on June 22. The next stage in the process requires the Church to approve a miracle attributed to her intercession for her beatification.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/23/2023 (1 year ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Mary Elizabeth Lange, Pope Francis, sainthood, cause, Mother

Originally named Elizabeth Lange, she immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the early 1800s. Deeply aware of the lack of educational opportunities for the children of fellow Black immigrants, Lange, along with a friend, established St. Frances Academy in her own home. She used her personal funds to provide free schooling to African American children in Baltimore.

With the support of Baltimore Archbishop James Whitfield, Lange went on to found a school specifically for "girls of color" and subsequently established the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious community for women of African descent. The primary purpose of the congregation was to offer religious and general education to African Americans. As time passed, Lange and her fellow sisters also responded to various other needs they encountered, such as sheltering orphans and widows, educating freed slaves, caring for cholera patients, and performing cleaning duties at St. Mary's Seminary.

Lange took the religious name of Mary and served as the superior general of the congregation for two terms. Notably, she founded the Oblate Sisters more than three decades before the Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery in the United States, while Maryland, her adopted state, was still a slave state.

Described by the Mother Mary Lange Guild as a woman of extraordinary faith, Lange's perseverance against all odds was fueled by her deep spirituality. She tirelessly gave of herself and her possessions to uplift her Black brothers and sisters until she had nothing left but her unwavering devotion to Jesus, whom she generously shared by being a living embodiment of his teachings.

Lange passed away on February 3, 1882, at the remarkable age of 92 or 93. Her cause for beatification was opened over a century later, in 1991, by Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler.

Today, the Oblate Sisters of Providence continue Lange's legacy, with approximately 80 members serving in three U.S. cities and two cities in Costa Rica. The congregation, guided by the current superior general, Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, remains committed to addressing the contemporary needs of society, just as Mother Mary Lange did. They embrace a deep trust in providence, love for all, and a profound recognition of Christ's presence in every person they encounter.

In addition to Lange, the decree issued by the Vatican's Dicastery for the Causes of Saints also declared venerable Brazilian Archbishop AntĂ´nio de Almeida Lustosa (1886â€"1974), Italian Franciscan Father Antonio Pagani (1526â€"1589), and Italian Sister Anna Cantalupo (1888â€"1983). Furthermore, Pope Francis approved the martyrdom of Manuel González-Serna RodrĂ­guez and 19 companions who were killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

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