Construction begins on Baltimore’s first new Catholic school in over 50 years

Baltimore, Md., Oct 24, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and other leaders from the city broke ground on October 23 for the first new Catholic school in the city of Baltimore in nearly 60 years.

Mother Mary Lange School is set to open in 2021. It will teach about 520 students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth. The school is located in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Poppleton.

The 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.

Lori said that his experience in the area at the time made him realize that the residents of that neighborhood had “had enough of the status quo, of being marginalized, of being cast aside, of being expected to settle for what was presumed to be a life predetermined by others, by circumstances outside of their control.”

It was the role of the Church, said Lori, to help improve this situation and to create a better future for the children who live there.

“That is why the archdiocese is making a bold statement and an even bolder investment of $24 million in Baltimore City and in this neighborhood, because we believe it is the right thing to do for our children and for this community,” said Lori at the groundbreaking.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a news article about the school 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 (BOOST) program, which provides scholarships for some lower-income students to attend private schools.

The area where the school is to be located is part of 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.

In an interview last week, Archbishop Lori said that he hoped the location of the school would attract families and students from other parts of the city as well.

“I’m excited to see a beautiful new school be created on that site,” said Lori. “I’m thinking about all the opportunity that this school will provide young people who live in our city, to grow in every way–spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially.”

The archdiocese said the $24-million school will host 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. Over $20 million for the construction of the school has already been raised.

Eric Costello, a member of the Baltimore City Council whose district includes Mother Mary Lange School, told The Catholic Review that he was looking forward to the completion of the project as an investment into the neighborhood’s future.

“We’re going to have more folks in the neighborhood on a daily basis,” said Costello. “It’s important because we’re going to have community use of the facility on the inside and the outside, so it’s something that’s really exciting for the neighborhood.”

Costello said he thought the school is “going to be something that is really incredible, and is really going to benefit our kids.”

The namesake of the school, Servant of God Mary Elizabeth Lange, O.S.P., was the foundress of the religious order the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

The order 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 Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened her cause for canonization.

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