Cause for the Canonization of
Servant of God
"Apostle of the Alleghenies"
The Catholic Register - May 12, 2008
During his April 2008 visit to the United States
of America, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a Mass at Yankee Stadium marking the
200th anniversary of the elevation of the Diocese of Baltimore to the status of
In 1808, the first Diocese in the United States
was split to form four new suffragan Dioceses (all now Archdioceses in their own
right): Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown KY (Louisville).
As the first Diocese in the United States,
Baltimore was the cradle of Catholicism in the new nation. Baltimore is
intimately associated with the life of the first Saint born in the United
States, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The first male Saint from our country,
Saint John Neumann, served in Baltimore as pastor of Saint Alphonsus Parish.
The Servant of God Father Demetrius Gallitzin, the second priest to be ordained
in the United States, and the first to complete all of his seminary studies in
this country, made those studies in Baltimore. Baltimore is also the scene
of the ministry of another candidate for Sainthood, the Servant of God Mother
Mary Lange, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.
Mother Mary Lange was a contemporary of the
Reverend Prince Gallitzin, and like him was an immigrant to these shores.
Born in Haiti in 1784, she made her home in Baltimore in 1813, and became part
of the large, vibrant community of French speaking Haitian Catholics who
worshipped in the crypt chapel of Saint Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street.
It was there, with the cooperation of Sulpician Father James Hector Joubert,
that she founded in 1829, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first
congregation of women religious of African descent.
Public education for African American children was
illegal in Maryland until 1868. Mother Mary Lange and her Sisters sought
to redress this injustice by providing these children with a Catholic education.
Eventually, the Oblate Sisters of Providence would minister in 25 cities in the
United States, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and most recently, in
Africa. This year marks the 180th anniversary of the oldest continuing
Oblate ministry, Saint Francis Academy in Baltimore.
Baltimore is the link in the lives and ministries
of Father Gallitzin, Mother Seton and Mother Lange and Bishop Neumann.
Father Gallitzin was one of the first students at Paca Street. Mother
Seton and Mother Lange both professed their religious vows there. And many
years later, when Mother Lange’s community needed strong clerical support, it
was Father John Neumann, later the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, who came
forward to help the Sisters persevere in their vocations.
The Servant of God Mother Mary Lange died in Baltimore on February 3, 1882, sustained by a deep faith that the Providence of God would never abandon her, nor the works she had founded.