There are some exciting updates on Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange and her journey to sainthood.

The Black Catholic nun made history by founding the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1829 in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the first African American religious congregation in the United States. 

Pope Francis signed a decree on June 22 recognizing Lange for her heroic virtue. The next step in the process toward sainthood is for the Catholic Church to approve a miracle that is attributed to Lange. She can then be beatified.

Mother Lange was born in Cuba to Haitian parents. She moved to the United States sometime near 1813. The Vatican’s saint-making office says the move to the US was due to racial discrimination in Cuba.

Mother Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence with three other women. The order is still active today and currently operates Baltimore’s Saint Frances Academy.

“She lived her virtuous existence in a hostile social and ecclesial context, in which the preeminent opinion was in favor of slavery, personally suffering the situation of marginalization and poverty in which the African American population found itself,” the Vatican’s saint-making office said in a statement.

Lange is one of three Black nuns recognized by Catholic officials as being worthy of sainthood consideration. The other two are Henriette Delille, who founded the New Orleans-based Sisters of the Holy Family in 1842 and Sister Thea Bowman, an educator, evangelist, and singer. 

In total, six Black people are currently on the path toward sainthood.

There are no recognized Black American saints.

Only one Black woman has ever been recognized as a saint — St. Josephine Bakhita. The process to recognize Bakhita took several decades. Pope John Paul II declared Josephine Venerable in December 1978. In May 1992, she was declared Blessed, with February 8 being designated as her feast day. And she was officially canonized as Saint Josephine Bakhita on October 1, 2000,