Venerable Henriette Delille – Co-foundress of Sisters of the Holy Family
During Black History Month, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon are recognizing the global contributions of Black men and women. The Sisters encourage us to reflect on their invaluable contributions to peace, religion, philanthropy, science and the advancement of human-kind.
Today we reflect on the immense love and courage of Venerable Henriette Delille – Servant of Slaves; Witness to the Poor.
Henriette Delille, a free woman of color, was born in New Orleans in 1813. Her life was a mission to affirm the God-given dignity of Black people during the era of slavery. In 1835, she sold all of her property in an effort to start a community of Black nuns to teach Black girls.
Delille joined Juliette Gaudin and Josephine Charles to establish the Sisters of the Holy Family (originally Sisters of the Presentation), a religious community of African-American women in 1836 – more than 20 years before the Civil War. At the time, it was illegal for a community of African-American women to exist.
The Foundresses primary mission was education, but they followed God’s call to teach slaves, care for the elderly and share with the poor and needy – including caring for the sick and dying during the New Orleans yellow fever epidemics of 1853 and 1897.
During their 175 years of existence, the Sisters of the Holy Family have continued to serve in Washington D.C., California, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
Sister Henriette Delille was declared a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and decreed Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Photo is of Place de Henriette Delille behind St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA. Flickr.com/photos/wallyg