Oblate Sisters

In the principal city of Baltimore, Maryland, a slave holding state, thirty years before the American Civil War, four French-speaking Negro women, refugees from their island homes in the Caribbean Sea, formed a religious community for the education of Black girls. They were real pioneers with no earlier organizations from which to copy. To gain a correct perspective of their subsequent story, a certain amount of historical and biographical data must be taken into account, as well as the slavery laws of the United States. The four Black women who began this great work were:

ELIZABETH LANGE, spoke only Spanish and French and had fled from her native Santiago in Cuba, where her parents had been fairly affluent. With some financial help from her mother and money salvaged from her deceased father’s estate, she began to teach poor girl of her own race at her home in Baltimore. Later she would be known as Sister Mary; still later, her mother would come to Baltimore and pass her last days at the convent.

ELIZABETH (Marie Magdalen) BALAS, because of constant political turbulence and religious persecution in her birthplace, San Domingo, had come to Baltimore. She spoke only French and, with profoundly religious motives, began to teach in Miss Lange’s school. She would later become Sister Marie Frances.

ROSINA (Marie Rose) BOEGUE, also a refugee from her native San Domingo, had come to Baltimore; she became a teacher at Miss Lange’s school. As a religious, she would bear the name Sister Mary Rose.

ALMAIDE DUCHEMIN, was reared as a boarded at Miss Lange’s school, her tuition paid by her mother, a nurse in Baltimore. Almaide’s father, Arthur Howard, of the famous Maryland family, seems to have abandoned his child and her mother (nee Maxis), which accounts for their using the name of the mother’s adoptive parents, the real parents having been murdered in San Domingo. Upon entering the religious community Almaide was given the name Sister Theresa. Later she would have an important part in the founding of another religious family.

These four wonderful Black women began their order, called “The Oblate Sisters” in 1828. With the kind help principally from 50-year old Father James Joubert, a native of France and an ex-soldier whose family had fled to San Domingo, then to Cuba, the sisters were able to secure their first home, #5 St. Mary’s Court and on June 13, 1828. It was from that time on, the Order had many ups and downs in maintaining themselves, but for the grace of God, the Order florished until today, they have missions not only throughout the United States of America, but throughtout the world.

They were able to purchase the old colonial house on Gunn Road in Arbutus in the late 1930s. In 1945, the house was destroyed by fire. By 1960, the Oblate Sisters built a new Motherhouse at this location where they remain today. This new house was hailed by Mother Mary of Good Counsel as having been “built by nickels, dimes, and suppers.”