New Catholic school in Baltimore holds blessing ceremony

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore speaks at the grand opening and blessing ceremony of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School in Baltimore, Md., Aug 6, 2021.

Baltimore, Md., Aug 6, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Baltimore’s first new Catholic school in over half a century celebrated its grand opening on Friday.

Mother Mary Lange Catholic School in Baltimore City was blessed and opened in an Aug. 6 ceremony featuring community and ecclesiastical leaders, including Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Archbishop William Lori.

Sr. Rita Michelle Proctor, the superior general of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the religious order founded by Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, said that her sisters are “especially proud and happy” to be at the dedication of the school.

“Our foundress, Mother Mary Lange’s, commitment to education began over 192 years ago,” said Sr. Rita. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

In her prayer, Sr. Rita expressed thanks to God for all of the factors that led to the school being created, including the leadership of Archbishop Lori and the support of the community.

“We praise and thank you that you allowed the making of a new Catholic school, which bears the name of your servant, Mother Mary Lange,” she said.

“Let this be a place where the laughter of children is heard, and everyone will be treated with loving respect,” said Sr. Rita. “Let these holy grounds be a place of peace, offering refuge from chaos and doubt. Let all students who enter this shelter experience the freedom, calm, and safety necessary to learn, play, and explore.”

The $24-million school is home to a chapel, STEM suite, two classrooms for each grade, a robotics lab, a gym, and athletic fields. Some of these facilities will be available for the public to use.

In 2019, when the school was first announced, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a news article that the majority of the students who will attend Mother Mary Lange School are not Catholic, and that about 80-90% will receive some form of tuition assistance, either from the archdiocese or from another partner. Maryland is home to the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today program, which provides scholarships for some lower-income students to attend private schools. During his remarks, Hogan announced that an additional $39 million would be committed to non-public schools to aid students.

The area where the school is to be located was home to a gap created by the closing of other Catholic schools, officials said. The school will become the home for current students at nearby Holy Angels Catholic School and Saints James and John Catholic School.

Ground broke on the school in October 2019, and the school was finished on schedule 22 months later.

Jim Sellinger, the chancellor of education for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said that “education changes lives” and is a “game-changer.”

Sellinger said that it was his “profound honor” to lead the project for the archbishop, whom he said never wavered in his support for the school.

“We’ve been working tirelessly toward this day for four-plus years,” he said. He added that “no care, thought, and yes, expense, was spared in creating an outstanding learning environment for our students.”

The school will teach over 400 students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth, and is located in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Poppleton. Mother Mary Lange Catholic School is located near a part of the city facing high levels of crime and poverty, which was home to riots after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

Sellinger said that it was a “priority” to build a school in this part of the city, and that its existence is representative of how the Archdiocese of Baltimore is committed to the city.

The Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first religious order for black freewoman religious, and was dedicated to the education of African-American girls and the training of African-American teachers. The Oblate Sisters of Providence were founded in Baltimore, where Mother Mary Lange lived for most of her life after immigrating to the United States from Cuba.

In 2004, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened her cause for canonization. In December 2019, her cause progressed and she may be declared “Venerable” in the near future.

The first day of school at Mother Mary Lange is Aug. 30.

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