The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s next school will be named for a sainthood-bound nun who founded the country’s first Catholic place of learning for black children, right here in Baltimore.
Its official name will be Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, according to an announcement today from the archdiocese. It would be situated off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at 732 W. Lexington St., several blocks west of Lexington Market.
The site, once home to Lexington Terrace Elementary School until it was demolished in 1997, was transferred from state to city control earlier this year. “We are in the process of acquiring the land,” archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine said in an email Tuesday.
The school, to open in 2020, would serve students from preschool through eighth grade. The church is raising millions of dollars to build it, and “must complete its fundraising campaign by raising the final $2 million” before construction can begin, according to a release.
It will absorb Holy Angels Catholic School, housed on the former Seton Keough High School campus in Southwest Baltimore, and St. James and John Catholic School in Johnston Square. Keough and two Catholic elementary schools closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year due to low enrollment and physical disrepair.
The new school’s namesake, Elizabeth Mary Lange, left Cuba for the United States in the early 1800s, and eventually settled in Baltimore. She co-founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious order, with Maria Balas and French-born priest Father James Nicholas Joubert, S.S., “with the primary mission of teaching and caring for African American children,” the order’s website says. The institution they founded in 1828, St. Frances Academy, is the same the Catholic high school and athletic powerhouse that we know today.
The plan to honor Lange with a new school, first proposed by longtime community activist Ralph Moore in a letter to The Sun, comes as the Catholic Church is considering her for sainthood. If approved by the Vatican, she’ll be the first-ever black American to be canonized.
Moore proposed honoring Lange as alternative to a familiar local name who was recently dropped from consideration. In August, a sprawling grand jury report from Pennsylvania alleged longtime Baltimore Catholic leader Cardinal William Keeler had failed to punish or stop multiple priests from sexually abusing children while serving in Harrisburg.
The archdiocese planned to name the new school downtown after Keeler, but announced the same day the report was published that that wasn’t happening anymore. Archbishop William Lori called the allegations “painful,” and said the church was “especially saddened and troubled by the news.”
Moore, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, wrote in his Aug. 16 op-ed, “The road to healing from the godawful abuse of children and the cover-ups is a long one. Naming the school for Mother Lange is just a very tiny step in that direction. The Catholic Church has much more to do to be fixed.”
Lange “was a visionary woman of deep faith and recognized the life-changing role of education in the lives of children, most especially those living on society’s margins,” Lori said in a statement Tueday. “Please God, Mother Lange’s name on our new school will be a beacon that shines brightly for the children of Baltimore and a reminder to all that every child of God deserves a good education and the hope and opportunity that comes with it.”
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