The city of Baltimore will soon see a new Catholic school open for the first time in decades, named after an African American nun who founded the first U.S. school for black children.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Tuesday that the new pre-K through 8th grade school will be named after Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, whose cause for canonization is currently being reviewed by the Vatican.

“Mother Lange’s name on our new school will be a beacon that shines brightly for the children of Baltimore and a reminder to all that every child of God deserves a good education and the hope and opportunity that comes with it,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said.

Servant of God Mother Mary Lange was raised in a French-speaking community in Cuba, but moved to the United States in the early 1800s.

Lange eventually moved to Baltimore, where she became the founder and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The community provided African American women a path to religious life in the Church. The sisters taught and cared for African American children.

In 1828, the order founded the first Catholic school in the United States for African American students, St. Frances Academy, which still exists today.

According to the archdiocese, the new school will open in downtown Baltimore in 2020, and “its students will include those currently attending Holy Angels Catholic School, on the campus of the former Seton Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore, and Ss. James and John Catholic School, in the Johnston Square neighborhood.” The archdiocese still needs to fundraise the final $2 million out of a total of $18.6 before construction can begin.

Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, superior general of the Oblate Sisters, said the order “considers it a great honor and tribute to have this new city Catholic School named in honor of Mother Mary Lange.”

The school was originally to be named after the late Cardinal William Keeler. However, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released last month said that Keeler had allowed a priest to remain in ministry despite multiple accusations of sexual offenses. Archbishop Lori subsequently announced that the cardinal’s name would be withdrawn from consideration.

The name of Mother Lange was suggested by Baltimore resident Ralph Moore, who began an online petition that received more than 350 signatures.

In a later statement discussing the new name choice, the archbishop highlighted the significance of Mother Lange’s role in Catholic education.
“One can’t tell the history of the Catholic school system in this country without mentioning Mother Mary Lange,” said Archbishop Lori. “She was a visionary woman of deep faith and recognized the life-changing role of education in the lives of children, most especially those living on society’s margins.”