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Brief History of The Sisters of The Holy Family

Louisiana by Henriette DelilleTwenty years before the Civil War of the United States, and before it was legal for such a Congregation to exist, the Sisters of the Holy Family were founded in New Orleans, Louisiana by Henriette Delille, a free woman of color. Co-foundresses of this religious community of African-American women were Juliette Gaudin and Josephine Charles.

Destined by the mores of the time to live a life of ease in the tradition of their female ancestors, Henriette, Juliette, and Josephine dared to break away from that pattern of life. Instead, these women chose to follow God's call. In following Him, they taught the slaves, cared for the elderly, and shared what they had with the poor and the needy.

For 166 years, the Sisters of the Holy Family, in the spirit of their foundresses and early predecessors, have continued to serve the youth, the elderly, and the needy members of society. The Sisters have not only served the New Orleans community, but also many people throughout cities in Louisiana; Texas, California, in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Belize, and Panama Central America; and Benin City, Nigeria, Africa. Of course this has changed in recent times.

During the history of the community, numerous noteworthy events have been documents. On November 21, 1842, the community was established. In 1843, catechism classes were conducted for adults and children. In 1847, a group of free men and free women of color formed the Society of the Holy Family to give the Sisters moral and financial support. On October 15, 1852, Henriette, Juliette, and Josephine pronounced first vows in St. Augustine Church. When children were left homeless by the pestilence in 1853, the Sisters cared for the orphans. Thus, in 1892, the St. John Berchmans' Orphanage was dedicated.

The Sisters cared for the sick during the yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans in 1897. The Sisters arrived in Stan Creek, British Honduras on Palm Sunday in 1898.

For $10 an acre, Mother Austin Jones purchased 123 acres of land in the Gentilly area. This 1906 purchase formed the cornerstone for the ministries at St. Mary's Academy, St. Paul the Apostle Church and School, the House of the Holy Family, Delille Inn, Lafon Day Care Center, Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family, and the present Motherhouse. In 1988 Henriette Delille's Cause for canonization was opened.

The Sisters have spent 166 years of loving, caring, and sharing with and for the people of God, for their own sanctification, for spreading the word of God, and for improving the life of the people they serve.

The Sisters of the Holy Family praise and thank God for their years of service and ask His blessings for the continuance of their mission.

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