Baltimore's Oblate Sisters of Providence, which celebrated its 180th birthday this year, was the first Catholic order in American to accept Black women as sisters.

Now, the order numbers only a hundred nuns, but according to sisters Sisters Virginie Fish and Marcia Hall, a former academic, (interviewed by NPR's Michel Martin) it's still a rich and fulfilling life. The Oblates, who were founded by Mother Mary Lange, a Haitian nun, was an integrated order from inception, and dedicated to good works. Says sister Virginie, who joined the order right out of high school 63 years ago, "We are ordinary women trying to live an extraordinary lifestyle because it it what we feel God is asking of us." Of the order's dwindling numbers she declares, "Jesus had twelve apostles...look what he did with twelve unlikely, uneducated men!" [NPR]