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Wed, 07.02.1828

Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious beginning

On this date in 1828, the Oblate Sisters of Providence were established. This was the first Black order of nuns in America.

On that date, four Black women met in a row house in Baltimore to voice simple vows. When the ceremony was over, a new order of nuns was born with the Catholic Church.  This community came into being as a direct result of the San Domingo uprising in 1791 and was composed of free Black women, living in a slave holding state. At their onset, they were founded for the education of colored children in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Reverend Jacques Hector Nicholas Joubert de la Murielle co-founded this parish. Joubert’s noble French family had been forced by the Revolution to take refuge in San Domingo. He escaped a massacre and came to Baltimore, entering St. Mary's Seminary.  After his ordination, he was given charge of the Black Catholics of St. Mary's chapel making no headway with his ideals. He was introduced to these four Black women, told them his needs and they offered their service.

With the approval of the Archbishop of Baltimore a novitiate was started and the first four sisters, Miss Mary Elisabeth Lange of Santiago, Cuba, Miss Mary Rosine Boegues of San Domingo, Miss Mary Frances Balas of San Domingo, and Miss Mary Theresa Duchemin of Baltimore made their vows. Gregory XVI approved the order on October 2nd, 1831 under the title of Oblate Sisters of Providence. There were 130 sisters, 9 novices, and 7 postulants in 1910.

Currently the sisters conduct schools and orphanages in Baltimore, Washington, Leavenworth, St. Louis, Normandy (Missouri) and 4 houses in Cuba, 2 in Havana, 1 in Santa Clara, 1 in Cardenas. The motherhouse and novitiate remains in Baltimore, Maryland and in 2004 they celebrated their 175 year anniversary with a fund raiser that featured Camille Cosby as their keynote speaker.

Reference:
Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time
The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860
by Diane Batts Morrow

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