Baltimore's Mother Mary Lange May Be The First African-American Saint

Nobody seems quite certain of how many saints there actually are, but the Catholic Exchange estimates it at about 810, not counting those currently being considered for sainthood or only got halfway there.

19th century Baltimore nun Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who began the world's first black Catholic order and opened a convent exclusively for women of color, is currently one of two historical black figures in the process of being canonized to sainthood. After running a school for black students otherwise denied free education, Lange and two other women became the Oblate Sisters of Providence, who cared for the elderly, taught freed slaves about Catholicism. (The Oblate Sisters of today are, naturally, enthused about the prospect of sainthood for Lange.) She passed away in 1882.

Should she make it through the process, she would be the first black American saint — not that the ratio of black saints to the grand total is all that impressive, either.

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The Vatican first began considering Mother Lange for canonization in 1991, and she's currently on the second of four steps in the sainthood process. Unsurprisingly, like getting Taco Bell at 2 AM in a big city, ish takes time. For those of us who didn't go to Catholic school or have a "phase" inspired by Winona Ryder in Mermaids, here it is.

First, there is an investigation of whether the sainthood candidate was "a servant of god," which requires the archbishop of the city in which the candidate was based to study his/her works. After this, the body is exhumed and examined. Next, it's decided whether the candidate was "heroic in virtue," based on Catholic virtues like prudence and fortitute. (I'm out.)

It's then determined whether the candidate, now considered "Venerable" (prayer cards of him/her are allowed, but "feasts" in his/her honor are not — if you were curious), was a martyr or confessor who advanced to heaven. If a confessor, they must have produced one "verified miracle" during their time on Earth, like making The Client List watchable.

'Deceased Black Nun May Reach Sainthood' [Clutch Magazine]