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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 ended, a new order of nuns was born in 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 to educate colored children in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Reverend Jacques Hector Nicholas Joubert de la Murielle co-founded this parish. The Revolution had forced Joubert’s noble French family to flee 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, nine novices, and seven postulants in 1910.
Currently, the sisters conduct schools and orphanages in Baltimore, Washington, Leavenworth, St. Louis, Normandy (Missouri), and four houses in Cuba, 2 in Havana, 1 in Santa Clara, and 1 in Cardenas. The motherhouse and novitiate remain in Baltimore, Maryland, and in 2004 they celebrated their 175-year anniversary with a fundraiser that featured Camille Cosby as their keynote speaker.
Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time
The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860
by Diane Batts Morrow