By Ralph Moore Jr. and Willie Flowers

With all of the issues, problems and concerns in Baltimore City, why are some Marylanders, Catholic and non-Catholic, devoting this Black History Month to a letter writing campaign addressed to Pope Francis? The campaign is to declare Mother Mary Lange a saint “santo subito,” or “to make a saint immediately.”

Mother Mary Lange is, unofficially, the patron saint of education for the Black poor children in the city of Baltimore. She was one of the founders of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the order of African-American religious women, and established St. Frances Academy in 1828. Mother Lange died in 1882 in her room on the second floor of the school. Many followers of the faith are perplexed as to why she has not been declared a saint by the Pope, since her sainthood has been recognized by the public acclamation for years.

Mother Mary Lange (Wikimedia Ccommons/Public Domain)

Mother Lange and three other sisters showed holiness in their courageous commitment to teach reading to children of slaves when it was illegal. The sisters could have been killed for educating slaves. They risked martyrdom by doing the right thing and answering a higher call. 

For sainthood, the Catholic Church requires proof of miracles or a death by martyrdom for the faith. The fact that St. Frances Academy, born during the time of slavery, has survived through the period of legal segregation and has sustained through mass incarceration and mass poverty should be proof enough of Mother Lange’s leadership and sainthood. So, why hasn’t it happened?

So, if now is not the time for sainthood for Mother Lange, then when? Now that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is built and will operate an elementary and middle school to be named after her, it is time for her church to officially declare Mother Mary Lange a saint. It is up to the Pope. He declared Pope John Paul II and Mother Therese “saints suddenly,” so why not declare sainthood for an African-American woman who lived and labored for God in the United States. Apparently, there are no Black United States citizens in heaven despite 250 years of slavery, 100 years of legal segregation, mass incarceration, and mass poverty cursing people of color in America. 

Please join the Baltimore Racial Justice Circle and Maryland State NAACP, led by Willie Flowers, in this Black History Month campaign to send letters to Pope Francis calling on him to canonize Mother Mary Lange.  

There are two addresses for Pope Francis in Vatican City: 

St. Peter’s Basilicais
His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

The apartment for the Pope
His Holiness
Saint Martha House
00120 Cita del Vaticano, Vatican City

Please address your letters to either or both addresses. Knowledgeable folks say the more concise the letter, the more likely the Pope will read it, so please get to the point. And please network with others in your family, your neighbors, your co-workers and church members of all denominations. Email your letter to me or please be kind enough to send copies to Ralph Moore at and to  

Ralph E. Moore Jr. is the cofounder of Baltimore Peace Camp. Willie Flowers is president of the Maryland NAACP.

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