This weeks saint is Mother Mary Lange (Elizabeth Lange).
Elizabeth Lange was possibly born on Haiti around 1784 and would later move with her family to Cuba. She fled Cuba with her family during a revolution and ended up in Baltimore, Maryland. Around 1818 while in Baltimore, Elizabeth realized that there were many black children, often fellow French-speaking refugees, in need of education (There would not be a public school available for any children of color in Baltimore until 1868). Mary decided to start teaching the local black children our of her own home and at her own expense along with another refugee friend.
The local Catholic leaders took note of Elizabeth and her friend’s education service to the poor, black refugee children in Baltimore and took steps to further empower and support her cause. In 1828 they helped start the first Black Catholic School in America. A year later, in 1829, Elizabeth and three friends took vows to create the first order of women of African descent, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Now as an official order and with the support of the Catholic church Elizabeth along with her friends expanded their service to provide homes for orphans, give shelter to the elderly, provide education to freed slaves and to care for the terminally ill. Elizabeth (she took Mary’s name when founding the order) would serve in the order and in her service to the “least of these” up to her death on February 3, 1882. Today the Oblate Sisters of Providence now number 125 sisters, 20 associates, and 16 Guild Members. Their motto: Providence will Provide. For her tireless work and dedication, Elizabeth has been put on the path to official sainthood in the Catholic church. If canonized, she could become the first African American woman saint.
I pray that Elizabeth’s example reminds us to look out for the “least of these” around us that we may be specially empowered and able to reach. I pray that our eyes would be opened to the tireless work of our sisters in the Church, especially those of another race and ethnicity. I pray that when we feel like there is no chance for provision or salvation that we would recall the motto of the Oblate Sisters of Providence: Providence will Provide.
Oblate Sisters of Providence – Mother Mary Lange
Wikipedia – Mary Elizabeth Lange
The Baltimore Sun – Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange
Archdiocese of Baltimore – Mother Mary Lange OSP
ABC 2 News – Mother Mary Lange one step closer to becoming a saint