Servant of God: Mother Mary Lange, Oblate Sisters of Providence
During Black History Month, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon are recognizing the global contributions of Black men and women. The Sisters encourage us to reflect on their invaluable contributions to peace, religion, philanthropy, science and the advancement of human-kind.
Today, we reflect on the vision, courage, and leadership of Mother Mary Lange.
Elizabeth Clarisse Lange (Mother Mary Lange) was born in 1784 and died Feb. 3, 1882.
Mother Mary Lange co-founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1829. The Oblates were the first U.S.-based religious order of Black women and formerly enslaved women.
Elizabeth Lange’s parents were refugees who took her and fled Cuba to the United States in the early 1800s, eventually making their way to Baltimore.
Elizabeth was an educated and deeply spiritual woman who saw the need for Baltimore’s Black, refugee and former enslaved children to receive free access to education – leading her to use her own money and home to open and run a free school for disadvantaged children for ten years.
Responding to God’s call to continue to give more, Mother Mary Lange and Sisters Rosanne Boegue, Marie Balas and Almaide Duchemin established the Oblates Sisters of Providence in 1829.
The Oblate Sisters were a community who uniquely welcomed Black and formerly enslaved women. The Oblates education ministry focused on families degraded by slavery.
Their mission grew rapidly. By 1860 OSP had 60 schools for Black and formerly enslaved children.
The Oblate Sisters of Providence were the first:
- U.S. religious order of Black women
- Catholic Sisters to stand against slavery
- Order to create a Catholic school that accepted Black girls
- To nurse the terminally ill during Baltimore’s cholera epidemic of 1832
The Oblate Sisters of Providence (currently 80 women) have ministered for almost 200 years to schools, day care centers, outreach and catechetical programs for all ages.