February 3rd – Mother Elizabeth Clarisse Lange, OSP
(Born circa 1784 – Died February 3, 1882)
Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, was born in the 1780s. She was a native of the Caribbean and oral tradition holds that she was born in Haiti. It is also believed that her family later later moved to Santiago, Cuba. She received an excellent education and in the early 1800s Elizabeth left Cuba and settled in the United States. By 1813, Providence directed her to Baltimore, Maryland where a large community of French speaking Catholics from Haiti was established. Elizabeth came to Baltimore as a courageous, loving, and deeply spiritual woman. She was a strong, independent thinker. As a well educated immigrant, she was of independent means, possessing monies left to her by her father. Mother Mary Lange obeyed the Call to open a school in her home for impoverished children. She and her friend, Marie Magdaleine Balas (later Sr. Frances, OSP) operated the school for over ten years.
Reverend James Hector Joubert, SS, who was encouraged by James Cardinal Whitfield, Archbishop of Baltimore, presented Mother Mary Lange with a challenge to found a religious congregation for the education of Black children. Elizabeth joyously acquiesed. Father Joubert provided direction, solicited financial assistance, and encouraged other "women of colour" to become members of this, the first congregation of Black women religious in the history of the Catholic Church. On July 2, 1829 Elizabeth and three other women professed their vows and became Oblate Sisters of Providence.
Elizabeth Lange, foundress and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, took the name of Mary. She was superior general from 1829 to 1832, and from 1835 to 1841. This congregation would make great strides in educating and evangelizing Blacks. The Oblate Sisters also provided a home for orphans. Women who had lived their lives enslaved were educated and, at times, admitted into the congregation. They nursed the terminally ill during the cholera epidemic of 1832, sheltered the elderly, and even served as domestics at St. Mary's Seminary in a time of crisis.
She suffered through poverty and racial injustice. However, Mother Mary Lange never lost faith in Providence. She gave herself, and her material possessions, until she was empty of all but Jesus; and her generosity continued through her commitment to be a witness to the love and mercy of her beloved Savior. Mother Mary Lange lived in a life of compassion and devotion to Jesus Christ until He called her home on February 3, 1882.
February 8th – St. Josephine Bakhita
(1869 – 1947)
Bakhita was not the name she received from her parents at birth. The fright and the terrible experiences she went through made her forget the name she was given by her parents. Bakhita, which means “fortunate,” was the name given to her by her kidnappers.
She was later sold to an Italian Consul who took her to Italy where she eventually became free. She was baptized and later joined the Canossian sisters in Venice, Italy. St. Josephine Bakhita lived an exemplary holy life. She was beatified on May 17, 1993, and was canonized on October 1, 2000.