By Therese Wilson Favors
For more than 180 years, Mother Mary Lange and the Oblate Sisters of Providence have kept watch over the souls who have come their way. They kept watch over those who wanted to take a closer walk with Jesus through the Catholic Church, therefore they catechized the young and not-so-young at the “Chappelle Basse,” the lower chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street. This was in the 1820s when the challenge for people of color gathering and becoming educated could result in deadly consequences. Still, the Oblates kept watch, serving God’s people as educators, catechists, nurses and the like.
Dr. Diane Batt Morrows brings to light a moment whereby the Oblates “kept watch” under sickly conditions, reporting:
“During their first decade, the Oblate Sisters demonstrated courage and a sense of empowerment as a community. In 1832, a cholera epidemic ravaged several eastern cities, including Baltimore. … Four Oblate Sisters served the sick, but all of the 11 Sisters volunteered as Father Joubert reported … filled with joy and happiness, they all cried that they should find much happiness in being able to serve our Lord in the person of the sick” (“Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence 1828-1860,” page 72).
The Oblates “kept watch” over those who were orphaned, those who were widowed and those who were homeless. Today, outreach to those who are most vulnerable in our society are attended to through the St. Frances Community Center in Baltimore. Several initiatives of prison ministry and support to youth and to the elderly are realized. St. Frances Academy, founded by the Oblate Sisters in 1828, recently resumed a service of boarders with young boys attending
So, as they have “kept watch” over so many over the decades, let us, the current beneficiaries from their ministry, give back by supporting these upcoming events:
• A musical performance of “Nunsense” by the cast of St. Veronica Players Oct. 21 at 3 pm. Tickets are $15. Location is the Oblate Sisters of Providence-Sacred Heart Hall (701 Gun Road.) Call 410-242-8500, ext. 110 to purchase tickets.
• Tea Time with the Oblate Sisters of Providence: Both men and women are invited to a traditional fall tea party at the Oblate Sisters of Providence Motherhouse (701 Gun Road, Arbutus, 21227). A fabulous lunch with fancy desserts and a surprise awaits all the attendees. All proceeds will benefit the Oblate Sisters of Providence, including their efforts toward canonization of Mother Lange. Tickets are $30, and our young ones are encouraged to attend. It is suggested that women wear hats and gloves while men wear suits and a fancy tie. All are asked to bring their personal family tea pot and tea cups or mugs. The date is Oct. 27, with gathering time at 11:30 a.m., concluding about 3:30 p.m. Sheldon Dutes from WBAL-TV will serve as master of ceremonies. Tickets can be obtained through the Office of African American Catholic Ministries, 410-625-8472.
• As we prepare to celebrate Black Catholic History Month in November, let’s gather for Mass Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. at historic St. Francis Xavier Parish. It will be an opportunity to pray together and celebrate the ties that make us a “family of faith” during this “Year of Faith.” Historic St. Francis Xavier is the oldest African American Catholic parish in the United States. The Josephite priests and brothers along with the Oblate Sisters of Providence continue to minister in this community. Therefore, come out, come out wherever you are and celebrate history and renew acquaintances through this black Catholic family reunion.