Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts

Friday, June 23, 2023

Mother Mary Lange, founder of first African American religious congregation, declared venerable

Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood cause of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, a Black religious sister who founded the country’s first African American religious congregation in Baltimore in 1829.

The recognition of Lange’s heroic virtue and the advancement of her cause from servant of God to venerable was announced by the Vatican in a decree signed on June 22. The Church will now need to approve a miracle attributed to her intercession before she can be beatified.

Elizabeth Lange, as she was named, immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the early 1800s. Recognizing the lack of education for the children of her fellow Black immigrants, with a friend she established St. Frances Academy in her own home and with her own money to offer free schooling to Baltimore’s African American children.

With the support of Baltimore Archbishop James Whitfield, she founded a school for “girls of color” and then the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious community for women of African descent.

The congregation’s purpose was to provide religious and general education to African Americans. Lange and the other sisters also responded to other needs they encountered over time, including taking in orphans and widows, educating freed slaves, nursing people dying during the cholera epidemic, and cleaning at St. Mary’s Seminary.

Lange took the religious name of Mary and served as the congregation’s superior general for two terms.

Lange founded the Oblate Sisters more than three decades before the Civil War and its resulting abolition of slavery within the United States. Although Maryland supported the Union, it was a slave state when Lange arrived there.

“Mother Mary Lange practiced faith to an extraordinary degree. In fact, it was her deep faith which enabled her to persevere against all odds,” the Mother Mary Lange Guild notes in an online biography. “To her Black brothers and sisters, she gave of herself and her material possessions until she was empty of all but Jesus, whom she shared generously with all by being a living witness to his teaching.”

Lange died on Feb. 3, 1882, at the age of 92 or 93, and her cause for beatification was opened over a century later, in 1991, by Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler.


Thursday, April 04, 2019

Pope Names Wilton Gregory as New Archbishop of Washington

Pope Francis has tapped Archbishop Wilton Gregory to lead the embattled Archdiocese of Washington, giving the nation's capital its first African-American archbishop a veteran leader who guided the Catholic Church through its clergy sexual abuse crisis in the early 2000s.

The archbishop of Washington is traditionally elevated by the Pope to the college of cardinals, meaning that Gregory eventually could be the first African-American cardinal ever to serve in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Archbishop Gregory has was previously in charge of the Archdiocese of Atlanta in Georgia. He was appointed Archbishop in December 2004, and took office on 17 January 2005.

The Archbishop, who was born in 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, studied philosophy at Niles College and theology at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained a priest on May 9, 1973 for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In 1980 Archbishop Gregory obtained his Doctorate in Liturgy at the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant'Anselmo in Rome.

After his priestly ordination, he held the following positions: Parish Vicar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview; Student in Rome (1976-1979); Professor of Liturgy at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelain, Member of the Archdiocesan Office for the Liturgy and Master of Ceremonies for Cardinals Cody and Bernardin (1980-1983).

In October of 1983 he was appointed titular Bishop of Oliva and Auxiliary of Chicago. He was transferred to the See of Belleville, Illinois, in 1993.

Within the United States Episcopal Conference, the Archbishop has held a number of positions including, President (2001-2004), Vice-President (1998-2001). He is currently Chair of the Committee on Divine Worship.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

U.S. Bishops give go-ahead to diocese’s Sister Thea Bowman sainthood effort

The U.S. bishops gave their assent to the canonization effort launched for Sister Thea Bowman by the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.
The assent, on a voice vote, came Nov. 14, the third day of their fall general meeting in Baltimore. The “canonical consultation” with the body of U.S. bishops is a step in the Catholic Church’s process toward declaring a person a saint.
Sister Bowman, a Mississippi native and the only African-American member of her order, the Wisconsin-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, was a widely known speaker, evangelizer and singer until she died of cancer in 1990 at age 52. She even made a presentation at the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in 1989, moving some prelates to tears.
“The faithful in, and well beyond, the Diocese of Jackson,” have asked for her canonization process to begin, said Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson, who became bishop of the diocese in 2014. “Even well before I arrived in Jackson, the requests were coming in.”
Sister Bowman, Bishop Kopacz said, was “an ambassador of Jesus Christ and an apostle of reconciliation,” adding she was “singing, teaching and inspiring until the very end.”
He noted that “the church embraced Sister Thea from her early years, but there were times when she felt like a motherless child.” It never deterred her, though, Bishop Kopacz said. “We pray that Sister Thea’s voice will be a beacon of hope” to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Bishop Kopacz liberally sprinkled his remarks with quotes from Sister Bowman.
“We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we make peace, when we share the good news of God within our hearts,” she once said. “We celebrate the presence and proclamation of the word made flesh. It is never an escape from reality,” she also said.
At another point, Sister Bowman told her audience, “Go! There is a song that will never be sung unless you sing it. … Go tell the world, go preach the Gospel, go tell the good news.”
Sister Bowman was a trailblazer in almost every role: first African-American religious sister from Canton, Mississippi; the first to head an office of intercultural awareness; and the first African-American woman to address the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sister Bowman led the Jackson Diocese’s Office of Intercultural Awareness, taught at several Catholic high schools and colleges, and was a faculty member of the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans.
She took her message across the nation, speaking at church gatherings and conventions, making 100 speaking engagements a year, but spreading cancer slowed her. Music was especially important to her. She would gather or bring a choir with her and often burst into song during her presentations.
In addition to her writings, her music also resulted in two recordings, “Sister Thea: Songs of My People” and “Round the Glory Manger: Christmas Songs and Spirituals.”
When Sister Bowman spoke at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in June 1989, less than a year before her death from bone cancer and confined to a wheelchair, she was blunt. She told the bishops that people had told her black expressions of music and worship were “un-Catholic.”
Sister Bowman disputed that notion, pointing out that the church universal included people of all races and cultures and she challenged the bishops to find ways to consult those of other cultures when making decisions. She told them they were obligated to better understand and integrate not just black Catholics, but people of all cultural backgrounds.
Catholic News Service reported that her remarks “brought tears to the eyes of many bishops and observers.” She also sang to them and, at the end, had them all link hands and join her in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who served as bishop of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands from 1985 to 1992, said Nov. 14 that Catholics in his former diocese “really revere Sister Thea and I’m really glad to see this coming to fruition.”
By the mid-1990s, Catholic schools in Gary, Indiana, East St. Louis, Illinois, and Port Arthur, Texas, opened bearing Sister Bowman’s name.
She also was the focus of books, including 1993’s Thea Bowman: Shooting Star — Selected Writings and Speeches, 2008’s This Little Light: Lessons in Living From Sister Thea Bowman, and 2010’s Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman.
Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt, observing the 20th anniversary of Sister Bowman’s death in 2010, said he believes the late nun is a saint. Though not officially canonized, “Sister Thea is canonized in the hearts of all who knew and loved her,” he said.