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Sainthood pushed to raise diversity

| Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 11:57 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Liturgical Dancer Dr. Evelyn Kitchens-Stephens of Swissvale, performs during a reception celebrating the progression of three African-American religious women to sainthood at St. Paul's Cathedral Sunday, November 17, 2013. The three are Sister Thea Bowman, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, and Mother Henriette DeLille.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-ReviewP
Bishop DAvid Zubik talks about three religious women, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Sister Thea Bowman, and Mother Henriette DeLille, and the impact they had on the world during a mass celebrating their progression toward sainthood at St. Paul's Cathedral Sunday, November 17, 2013.

Cecile Springer is hoping days like Sunday can help revitalize the Catholic Church.

Springer and several parishioners at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland have been among Catholics researching and promoting sainthood for three black American women.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik celebrated a special Mass, in which Springer and nuns from New Orleans participated, to draw attention to the cause.

“We have never had African-American women even thought of in the context of becoming saints,” Springer said. It “is a miracle in and of itself.”

There are so few saints from the United States that adding some, especially from the black community, can be a big inspiration to people, bringing more into the church, Springer said. There's been a growing push in the church to have multi-cultural committees, and many have taken up this cause, said Sister Clare of Assisi Pierre, a school principal from New Orleans who helped lead the events at St. Paul.

Being promoted for sainthood are: Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, born in Cuba of Haitian parents, the founder of a religious order for black women and founder of a school for black girls in Baltimore; Mother Henriette DeLille, who helped yellow fever victims and started Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans; and Sister Thea Bowman, a Mississippi native who entered religious life in Michigan and made visits to Pittsburgh promoting inter-cultural understanding, church officials said.

“In our church, we don't see many people of color. And we don't think of our founding communities being of African-American race,” Pierre said. “But we have very influential people of African-American descent who have made significant strides for the Catholic church and have done tremendous humanitarian work.”

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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