Afro-Cuban and Afro-American nun is declared ‘Venerable,’ first step toward canonization

From our Bureau of Heroic Virtue

A nun born in Cuba who ended up establishing and running a school for black children in 19th-century Baltimore might become the first Cuban ever to be canonized (if Francis Varela doesn’t beat her to it).

Being declared a saint by the Catholic Church is usually a lengthy and complicated process. Occasionally, the process can be speedy, as in the case of the late Pope John-Paul II, who was canonized only eight years after his death. In some cases, the process stalls and fails to move forward. In other cases, it can take centuries, as happened with Joan of Arc, who was canonized 489 years after her death.

The achievements of this little-known Cuban nun are truly remarkable. She migrated from Cuba to the slave state of Maryland as a free black, and despite being black AND an immigrant, she managed to improve the lives of others in her adoptive land. And she lived to be 98.

No miracles have been officially attributed to her yet, but being declared “Venerable” means that she is being recognized for her holiness and “heroic virtue” and that she can — and should — be approached for help through prayer.

Amazing woman. Amazing Cuban. Amazing American. Amazing Christian. Find out more about her HERE.

children at Mother Maria’s school

Loosely translated from Marti Noticias

Pope Francis approved this Thursday the decree on the “heroic virtues” of the nun Maria Lange, who was born in 1784 in Santiago de Cuba (Cuba), into a family of African origin, and who left the island to travel to United States, where he founded a school for African Americans.

According to the Vatican biography, she is the first African-American woman in North America to be proposed as a model of holiness.

The path to holiness has several stages: the first is to be declared a venerable servant of God, the second blessed, and the third holy.

Venerable Servant of God is the title given to a dead person who is recognized “to have lived the virtues in a heroic way”.

For a venerable person to be beatified, a miracle must have occurred due to his intercession, as in this case, and for him to be canonized, made a saint, a second miracle performed “by intercession” is required after being proclaimed blessed.

Maria Lange settled in Baltimore, where she was struck by the lack of basic education for young blacks and she opened a free school.

She “lived her virtuous existence in a hostile social and ecclesial context, in which the prevailing opinion was in favor of slavery, personally suffering the situation of marginalization and poverty in which the African-American population found itself.” noted the Vatican in her biography.

2 thoughts on “Afro-Cuban and Afro-American nun is declared ‘Venerable,’ first step toward canonization”

  1. Was she really born in Cuba? I started looking her up after I saw this piece and there are sources out there that say she was born the French colony of Saint Domingue.

  2. The story is confused. If she was born and presumably raised in Cuba, she would not speak French. Her Wikipedia entry says something that makes much better sense, which is that she was born in Hispaniola (now Haiti) around 1789 (not 1784) and that her family fled to eastern Cuba due to the Haitian Revolution that started in 1791. How she wound up going to the US is also unclear, but I expect she was not born in Cuba but lived there as an immigrant or refugee for some years.

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