Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born around 1784 in the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba. She came from a French speaking family of some means and social standing. And in the early 1800’s, a well-educated young Elizabeth left Cuba to seek peace and security in the United States. Providence directed her to Baltimore, Maryland where great influxes of French-speaking Catholic refugees from the Haitian Revolution were settling. By 1813, Elizabeth Lange was living in Baltimore where it did not take her long to recognize that the children of her fellow Caribbean immigrants needed education. Thus, she was determined to respond to that need in spite of being a black woman in a slave state long before the Emancipation Proclamation. She used her own money and home in the Fells Point area of the city to educate children of color. Then early in 1828, providence intervened through Reverend James Hector Joubert, S.S. Through his guidance and support, Elizabeth would form the first congregation of women of African heritage and would as well, would start a school for children of color. Elizabeth became the founder and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, and henceforth would be known as Sister Mary and later, Mother Mary Lange. Her religious order of women of color still reside here in Baltimore today and continues to serve the needs of students of color.
With such a historical treasure here in Baltimore, why is it that many people are unaware that the Oblates of Providence Motherhouse sits just over five miles away from St. Agnes. Well, for the past two years, BEAR NATION has made it a point to pay a special visit to the Motherhouse as a means in which to celebrate the feast of St. Valentine. On this day of love, our students use this blessed occasion as an opportunity to share a bit of joy to the primarily elderly of this extraordinary congregation of religious women. And in keeping with the spirit of this blessed feast day, the third grade students brought love, laughter and the light of Christ to the Oblates with our second annual “Songs, Sweets and Scattergories for the Sisters”. This memorable event began in their chapel with morning Mass. Following our Eucharistic celebration, the students received a tour of the convent, learned of the work of their ministry, and discovered more about the unique legacy of Mother Mary Lange. And then the festivities truly began. Our students entertained the Oblates by singing a number of musical ballads and Christian hymns. Following their performance, the students put on their host and hostess hats on as they served the sisters a variety of delicious treats. Following the continental breakfast and conversation, our students then played a group wide game of Scattegories. As I reflected on the success of this day, I smiled knowing that our students received an educational experience that combined an intimate study of Black History in Baltimore, all while engaging them in direct service through the lens of our faith.
I would like to thank our third grade teacher, Theresa Baldwin, and our Music teacher, Dan Baker for all of the preparation that they offered to this event. And as well, I would like to extend my gratitude to Mount St. Joseph’s High School for generously providing transportation for this memorable event.