Black nun could be the first African American to reach sainthood

Despite the fact that I renounced Christianity years ago, this story made me slightly proud that my 1-year-old self was doused with holy water (according to my older family, I resisted the rituals of the church back then as well) at a little church in a Chicago suburb called Saint Mary’s.

I say that after reading about the amazing life and work of Mother Mary Lange. For Harriet tells us:

“Lange was born Elizabeth Clarisse Lange circa 1784 in Cuba. In the early 1800’s, Lange moved to Baltimore, Maryland, a safe haven for Catholics, to be with fellow French-Speaking Catholic Refugees. Upon moving to the United States, Lange recognized the need of education among refugee children of color, and on July 2nd, 1829 Lange along with three other women founded the order. The Sisters while educating the youth, provided homes for orphans, sheltered the elderly and took care of the terminally ill. The order also found St. Frances Academy, which is still in operation today.”

After a lifetime dedicated to engaging the underrepresented in education and sustenance, Mother Mary Lange is still leaving her mark over 100 years later. While not the first saint of African descent, if canonization is completed, Mother Mary Lange could make history as the first African American saint. (There is currently another African American woman from New Orleans who is also in the process of canonization.) This process is time consuming and complex.

“Lange’s posthumous move to her founding church is one of the first steps in the long road to sainthood. This move will allow her body to be worshipped and viewed by persons. However, this is not the first step made in the name of Lange to become a saint. 

The first petition for canonization came in 1991 when the Vatican launched an investigation into her works. Cardinal William H. Keller, Archbishop of Baltimore at the time, finished the investigation in 2004, and sent it to the Vatican.

The next step is to have an investigation into the potential saints writing by the Vatican to make sure there is nothing heretical. Once this is gathered it is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

After this, the potential saint will be determined if they lived a life of heroic value. If they did, they will be declared Venerable. Once accepted as Venerable, the next step is beatification, or a miracle must be done in the potential saints name, and must be verified by the Church. The final step is to have another miracle declared in their name. Once the second miracle is verified, there is a formal declaration of sainthood. 

Currently, the next step in Mother Mary Lange’s canonization is proof she lived a “heroic life”, which is being written by Vatican official, Brother Reginald Cruz.”

Mother Mary Lange’s story is inspirational across faith lines and reminds me of the transformative capacity of service and a genuine love for humanity.

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