Baltimore opens 1st new Catholic school in about 60 years

Aug 30, 2021, 11:53 AM | Updated: 12:21 pm
Youngsters enter the first new Catholic school built in Baltimore in roughly 60 years with a mix of...

Youngsters enter the first new Catholic school built in Baltimore in roughly 60 years with a mix of enthusiasm and first-day-back jitters, Monday Aug. 30, 2021. The new 65,000 square foot school near downtown Baltimore is an anomaly in the national education landscape where the pandemic has shuttered many parish schools. It's named after Mother Mary Lange, who started a Catholic school for Black children in 1828 _ the first U.S. Catholic school for African-American youth. (AP Photo/David McFadden)

(AP Photo/David McFadden)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The first new Catholic school built in Baltimore in roughly 60 years opened its doors Monday to hundreds of youngsters, who entered the gleaming new building with a mix of enthusiasm and first-day-back jitters.

“Do great, my children!” called Jason Engram as his three children stepped into Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, a state-of-the-art school located on the site where a notoriously rough public housing high-rise once stood.

In a U.S. city steeped in Catholicism like few others, the new 65,000-square-foot (6,000-square meter) building near downtown Baltimore is somewhat of an anomaly in the national education landscape as the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the shuttering of many Catholic schools.

It’s named after Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, a Haitian American who started a Catholic school for Black children in 1828 — the first U.S. Catholic school for African American youth. She co-founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore in 1829. The Vatican is reviewing Lange for possible canonization.

Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori said the new school, which goes from preschool to 8th grade, was not only a benefit to the students and their families but also an asset to the surrounding neighborhood. The school’s playing fields and gym will be accessible, as appropriate, to the city community.

“They say a rising tide lifts all boats. And I think the opening of this school has put a spring in the step of all of our Catholic educators,” Lori said in a phone interview.

It comes amid a particularly challenging time for Catholic schools in the U.S. At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, financial and enrollment problems aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic forced the permanent closure or consolidation of more than 200 Catholic schools, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. Elementary schools were hit particularly hard.

The National Catholic Educational Association has reported that enrollment in Catholic schools across the country dropped 6.4% last year from the previous school year — the biggest single-year decline in nearly 50 years.

This autumn, there could be more positive figures to report, association leaders stressed on Monday. Various Catholic schools around the country have reported increased enrollment numbers.

Engram and his wife, Devon, both employees at the University of Maryland complex across the street from Mother Mary Lange, said they switched to Catholic education for their children after a negative experience years ago in a Baltimore public school, which she described as a “dark and gloomy” place. The Black family is Baptist and say they value faith-based learning.

“We feel it’s an investment we’re making in our children’s futures,” Jason Engram said.

The majority of the mostly non-Catholic student population at the new Baltimore school is expected to qualify for tuition assistance from the archdiocese, which says it will make more than $1 million available in tuition grants and assistance. It has a projected enrollment of 520 students by the fourth year of operations. Regular tuition is around $6,000.

The new school with a chemistry lab and other resources is a source of pride for many parishioners in Baltimore, which in the early 1800s was a Catholic hub described as “the Rome of the United States.”

Few were more excited about the new school than David Guillen, a third-grader who lives less than a mile away from Mother Mary Lange and was very eager to start his academic year with in-person instruction. “It’s big and really nice. I am kind of still in shock at how big and nice it is,” he said.

Besides Mother Mary Lange’s achievements, Baltimore has a number of firsts when it comes to U.S. Catholicism. There are older Catholic churches in the country, but Baltimore is home to the nation’s first bishop, first cathedral, first diocese and first archdiocese. And Elizabeth Ann Seton, America’s first native saint, began her religious life in Baltimore, where she founded the nation’s first parochial school.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a humpback chub in t...
Associated Press

US formally removes Colorado River fish’s endangered status

DENVER (AP) — The humpback chub, a rare fish found only in the Colorado River basin, has been brought back from the brink of extinction after decades of protection, though work must continue to ensure its survival, federal authorities said Monday in reclassifying the species from endangered to threatened status. The fish, which gets its […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for November delivery rose 16 cents to $82.44 a barrel Monday. Brent crude oil for December delivery fell 53 cents to $84.33 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for November delivery was unchanged at $2.49 a gallon. November heating oil fell 2 cents to $2.55 a gallon. November natural gas fell 42 cents […]
13 hours ago
Center-left mayoral candidate Roberto Gualtieri flashes a v-sign at his party's headquarters in Rom...
Associated Press

Center-left wins in Rome, elsewhere in blow to Italy’s right

ROME (AP) — Italy’s center-left forces won big in Rome, Turin and several other mayoral runoffs on Monday, dealing embarrassing defeats to the anti-migrant and far-right parties that are hoping to capture Italy’s premiership in the next national election. Roberto Gualtieri from Italy’s Democratic Party trounced a challenger who had been selected by the Brothers […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

New Orleans council member faces drunk driving accusation

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans City Council member is facing a drunk driving charge for the third time after an arrest early Monday. News outlets in New Orleans say jail records and a police report show that Jared Brossett, 39, is facing a driving while intoxicated charge after police found him asleep in […]
13 hours ago
This combination of images shows promotional art for the series "Invasion," premiering Friday, Oct....
Associated Press

New this week: ‘Dune,’ ‘Invasion’ and an Elton John album

Here’s a collection curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists of what’s arriving on TV, streaming services and music platforms this week. MOVIES — Denis Villeneuve’s somberly majestic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 cult sci-fi novel “Dune,” with its grand-scale architecture and thundering sonic blasts, would certainly be best experienced on the big screen. But […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman gives a 'thumbs-up' as he leaves the West Wing of the ...
Associated Press

Lieberman book details help he received from GOP in 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut details in a new book how aid from top Republicans — including strategist Karl Rove — helped him win reelection against a more left-leaning Democrat and a Republican. Lieberman ran as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary to now-Gov. Ned Lamont, […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.
Baltimore opens 1st new Catholic school in about 60 years