On Thursday, June 22nd, Pope Francis declared five Servants of God Venerable- Sister Mary Lange among the group. Given this recent announcement, we wanted to dive into her life and share her inspiring story.
Sister Mary Elizabeth Lange was an extraordinary woman who made a significant impact on the Catholic Church. Born in 1784 in Santiago de Cuba, Mary was the daughter of free Haitian slaves. She was a devout Catholic who felt a great call to religious life, but as an African-American, she was denied entrance into existing orders in the United States. Despite the prejudice against her race, Mary persevered and became the founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Her inspiring story is one that deserves to be told and celebrated by the Catholic community.
Mary's childhood was not an easy one. Her family, being of Haitian origin, faced prejudice and discrimination in the predominantly white colonial society of Cuba. Mary's mother ensured that all her children were given a Catholic education, which would later play a significant role in Mary's life. In her twenties, Mary migrated to the United States, settling in Baltimore. It was here that Mary first experienced racial discrimination and the challenges of being a Black Catholic. She found solace in the Church but was dismayed by the lack of support for Black Catholics.
This experience led Mary to dedicate her life to the service of the African-American community and the Church. In 1829, along with Marie Balas, Mary started the Oblate Sisters of Providence - the first successful African-American order in the United States. The order provided education and care for African-American girls and women, and later expanded to include nursing and caring for the elderly. Mary worked tirelessly to ensure that her sisters received an education and served the community with compassion and dignity.
At a time when Black people were denied basic human rights in the United States, Mary's work was groundbreaking. She remained steadfast in her mission and worked to bridge the gap between the church and the African-American community. As a result of her work and dedication, Mary was recognized by the Church as a woman of exceptional character. She was later declared a Servant of God by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, paving the way for her beatification and eventual canonization.
Mary was not only a pioneer and leader in the Catholic Church; she was also a beacon of hope for many marginalized communities in the United States. Her unwavering faith and commitment to service serve as an inspiration to all those who seek to make a difference in the world. Her legacy lives on through the Oblate Sisters of Providence, who continue to serve the vulnerable with compassion and dignity.
The story of Sister Mary Lange is one of faith, perseverance, and service. As Catholics, we have a responsibility to celebrate the accomplishments of those who came before us and paved the way for the Church we know today. Sister Mary Lange's life was a testament to the power of faith to overcome adversity and make a difference in the lives of others. We honor her legacy by continuing to support the Oblate Sisters of Providence and other organizations dedicated to serving marginalized communities. May we all strive to follow in her footsteps and live a life of service to others.