The first new Catholic school to be built in the city in decades will be named after a woman who started the first-ever Catholic school for black children, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Tuesday.
“One can’t tell the history of the Catholic school system in this country without mentioning Mother Mary Lange,” Archbishop William E. Lori said in a statement.
Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, to be build along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevar, was initially going to be named after the late Cardinal William Keeler. That plan was nixed in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report that said Keeler allowed a priest accused of multiple sex offenses to resume his ministry in Baltimore.
The idea to name the school after Lange was suggested by Ralph Moore in a letter to The Baltimore Sun. Moore started an online petition which he said received more than 300 signatures.
He praised Lori’s decision.
“It’s such an obvious good choice,” he said Tuesday. “I think it will cause a lot of excitement around the diocese and around the city.”
Born in the Caribbean, Mary Elizabeth Lange moved to Baltimore in the early 1800s and opened a free school for black children in Fells Point. She is currently being reviewed for canonization and could become the first ever black American saint.
At a time when much of Baltimore’s black population was enslaved and racism was overt, Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order of black nuns in modern history. Their school became St. Frances, the oldest Catholic school for children of color in the United States.
A spokeswoman for the Oblate Sisters called the decision “a great honor and a tribute.”
The new school will be built on a city-owned tract at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Lexington and Saratoga streets near downtown Baltimore.
The school will be for grades pre-kindergarten through eight, and will be the new home for students currently attending Holy Angels Catholic School, which is using the former Seton Keough School in Southwest Baltimore, and Saints James and John Catholic School in East Baltimore’s Johnston Square neighborhood.
The archdiocese has $2 million more to raise for construction to begin.