Catholic group wants speedy sainthood for 6 African-Americans

A group of Baltimore Catholics says it’s time to expedite the process of recognizing saints in Catholicism concerning six African-Americans.

The procedure in the catholic faith seemed so arduous that it can take generations, even centuries, to complete.

However, in the cases of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II, for example, church officials waived a five-year waiting period after their deaths to get the process started.

this has made the Baltimore Catholics group to say it’s time to expedite the cases of six other heroes of the faith.

Parishioners of St. Ann’s Catholic Church, a predominantly African-American congregation in the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood, and the two other churches in its pastorate, Historic St. Francis Xavier and St. Wenceslaus, seek to make the case that the church should immediately canonize six Black American Catholics, who include Mother Mary Lange.

She was a Baltimore nun who started and ran a school for Black children during the era of slavery.

They used a special Mass at St. Ann’s Monday night to advocate for the cause, and organizers said they’ll also use the All Saints’ Day service to launch a national letter-writing campaign. They hope to collect signatures on letters from Catholics across the Archdiocese of Baltimore and beyond in the coming weeks, then bundle them into a package to send to Pope Francis no later than January.

Mother Lange died in 1822.

The other candidates include a Haitian Ameri- can former slave, Pierre Toussaint, who went on to become a successful business owner and philanthropist in New York, and the Mississippi- born scholar-evangelist, Thea Bowman, who had to overcome so much racism inside and outside the church during their lives.


“Their cases should be viewed as exceptional, said Ralph E. Moore Jr., a St. Ann’s member helping to lead the effort.

The church has never made a Black American Catholic a saint.

“These strong and courageous people lived exemplary lives. They kept the faith through slavery and other forms of racial discrimination, even when they were considered second-class members of their own church.

“The church has broken the rules (for the canonization process) before. It could do the same again. We believe it should. We’d like to see these ancestors of ours be canonized,” said Mr. Moore, a lifelong Catholic who is African-American.

The Mass included a procession into the church by parishioners carrying oversized portraits of the six candidates for sainthood— Mother Lange, Mr. Toussaint, Ms. Bowman, the Rev. Augustus Tolton, Julia Greeley and Sister Henriette DeLille—as a three-church choir sang, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Rev. Tolton, a former slave who was baptized and raised Catholic, was rejected on the basis of his race by every American seminary he applied to. He went to Rome to study and, in 1886, won the distinction of being the first Black priest in America. (The racial background of three brothers ordained earlier was not widely acknowledged during their lifetimes. James, Patrick, and Sherwood Healy were the sons of a Black woman who had been enslaved and the white man who owned her, according to an essay by James M. O’Toole, a professor of history at Boston College.)

Ms. Greeley, who was born enslaved in Missouri in the mid-1800s and baptized Catholic, became known as Denver’s “Angel of Charity” for her work on behalf of that city’s poor.

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Sister DeLille, a Black nun from New Or- leans born in 1813, opened the first Catholic home for older adults and founded an order of women religious in the face of opposition due to her race.

The process of declaring a person is a saint involves several major steps.

POne of them is that it can be done five years or more after candidates have died.

Then, their bishop can open an investigation to determine whether their life was sufficiently holy or virtuous.

If a special Vatican department, the Congregation of Saints, agrees, the candidate has been deemed a “Servant of God” and the case moves forward.

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