Sisters of the Holy Family (Louisiana)
The Sisters of the Holy Family based in New Orleans, Louisiana, were founded in 1837 as the Sisters of the Presentation by Henriette DeLille. In 1842, the religious institute changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family.
In 1835, Henriette's mother suffered a nervous breakdown. Later that year, the court declared her incompetent, and granted Henriette control of her assets. After providing for her mother's care, Henriette sold all her remaining property. In 1836 she used the proceeds to found a small unrecognized congregation or order of nuns, the Sisters of the Presentation. The original members consisted of Henriette, seven young Créole women, and a young French woman.
Her brother Jean DeLille was strongly opposed to her activities. He, like other members of their family, could pass for white, as they were octoroons, seven-eighths European or white in ancestry. His sister's actions within the Créole community exposed his ancestry. Estranged from Henriette, Jean DeLille took his family and moved away from New Orleans to a small Créole community in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, called La Côte-aux-Puces, now known as Grand Marais. There Jean DeLille married Amelia Dubreuil-Olivier, the free quadroon daughter of Charles Olivier de Vézin, former major in the French brigades of the Louisiana colony. After Amelia died, he later married Adelaide Dubreuil, a free woman of color from New Orleans.
In 1837, Father Etienne Rousselon secured formal recognition of the new congregation from the Holy See. In 1842, the congregation changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family. Henriette DeLille continued a life of service to the poor of New Orleans. She died in 1862. Friends attributed her death to a life of service, poverty, and hard work.
At the time of her death, there were 12 members of the order. By 1909, it had grown to 150 members, and operated parochial schools in New Orleans that served 1,300 students. By 1950, membership in the order peaked at 400.
There is a street in New Orleans called Henriette Delille.
The order today
The Sisters of the Holy Family remain active today, with over 200 members who serve the poor by operating free schools for children, nursing homes, and retirement homes in New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana; Washington, D.C; Galveston, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; California; and the Central American country of Belize.
- The Sisters of the Holy Family
- Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Sisters of the Holy Family page
- Orrick, Lucy Semmes, "Along the Color Line", National Magazine, November 1904