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Advocates for Mother Mary Lange Hail ‘Movement’ in Her Sainthood Cause

A painting depicts Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, the world’s first sustained women’s religious community for Black women. Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, the order’s superior general, announced March 5, 2023, that Mother Lange’s canonization cause has taken one step forward with the Vatican accepting the “positio,” or documentation about her life. (Photo: OSV News/courtesy Catholic Review)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — African American Catholics plan to visit the Vatican in November to promote the cause for Mother Mary Lange, one of six African American Catholics who are candidates for sainthood. 

The cause for Mother Lange (1795-1882) began in 1991. She founded the first Catholic order of African American nuns. Nearly two months ago, Pope Francis signed a decree declaring her “Venerable” Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange.

Ralph Moore is a leader of Mother Lange’s cause for sainthood. He is also a member of the Social Justice Committee at St. Ann Parish in Baltimore. 

He recently told Currents News that he was excited to see the 32-year effort “moved up to the next level,” adding: “We’re happy to see movement. The process seems to go somewhat gradually.”

Still, Moore said Mother Lange’s supporters want to make good use of the momentum. To that end, they’ve mailed 3,000 letters of support for the cause to the pope’s residence at the Vatican.

Moore said they also plan to hand deliver another 1,000 letters in person, either at an audience with the pope or an appointment with the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, which oversees the causes for sainthood.

“We intend to be there on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 2023, which is also the first day of Black Catholic History Month,” Moore said. “And we’re working with a bishop to get an appointment or an audience for that particular time. 

“And at that time, we will put these additional letters in Pope Francis’ hands.”

A miracle attributed to Mother Lange’s intercession is still needed for her beatification, followed by a second miracle in order for her to become a saint.

Mother Lange was born in Cuba to Haitian parents. She came to the United States around 1813 and settled near Baltimore. Later, she took her vows and founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The community still exists, serving in the U.S. and Costa Rica.

Mother Lange also became a driving force in the education of immigrant children. She was undeterred by the disadvantage of her being a black woman in Maryland, which was a slave state long before the Emancipation Proclamation.

According to the official website of her sainthood cause, “She used her own money and home to educate children of color.”

Moore noted, however, that supporters of Mother Lange’s cause also promote the causes of the five other black candidates for sainthood from the U.S.

The others are: Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, who was a noted educator, evangelist, and singer of spirituals; Sister Henriette Delille, the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Pierre Toussaint, another former slave who became a philanthropist and supporter of many Catholic charitable works in Manhattan; Father Augustus Tolton, who is believed to be the first publicly known Black Catholic priest in the U.S.; and Julia Greeley, who after emancipation joined the Secular Franciscan Order and promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“There are no African American saints from the United States as recognized by the Catholic Church,” Moore stressed. “And yet, African Americans have been Catholic since the days of enslavement in this country.

“We have endured racial segregation, even within our churches, even during the enslavement itself. We have endured mass incarceration and mass poverty. And yet we’ve kept the faith; we’ve remained faithful to the Catholic Church. Recognition is important.”

To support the campaign for Mother Lange, email letters to Ralph Moore at