Sisters of the Holy Family anticipate foundress' beatification

November 15, 2011

The Vatican is reviewing the sainthood cause of the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family of New Orleans, and the congregation of black women religious anticipates that a beatification could happen as early as fall 2012.

The canonization process for foundress Henriette Delille, SSF, began in 1988 at the request of the superior general of the Sisters of the Holy Family. In October 2008, Vatican historians approved the compilation of documents defending Mother Delille's life, virtue and reputation; and in May 2009, Vatican theologians followed suit. Pope Benedict XVI declared Mother Delille venerable in March 2010.

In order for the Venerable Delille to be beatified, the Vatican must validate one miracle that occurred through her intercession. For her to be canonized, the Vatican must validate an additional miracle. According to Sr. Doris Goudeaux, SSF, the director of the Henriette Delille Commission Office at the Sisters of the Holy Family motherhouse, that commission has received more than 2,000 letters from 47 U.S. states and 15 countries, attributing more than 300 favors and miracles to Venerable Delille's intercession.

Mother Delille was born in 1813 to a wealthy white father and black mother. As a young woman, she joined with other wealthy women of mixed heritage in educating slaves and caring for the poor, the elderly and other people in need in New Orleans. She and other black women wanted to join a religious community, but were barred from joining white orders because of segregation. Delille and others sought to form a black religious congregation but faced opposition initially because of segregation.

In time, the women received the support of clergymen; and in 1842 they established the Sisters of the Holy Family. Mother Delille headed the congregation. Twenty years after the community's founding, she died at age 50 of pleurisy. Her obituary read, in part, "Last Monday died one of these women whose obscure and retired life was nothing remarkable in the eyes of the world but is full of merit before God."

The congregation Mother Delille helped to establish grew and expanded its ministry in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During that time, the Sisters of the Holy Family founded an orphanage, academy, church, nursing facility and other ministries. The sisters have served in cities throughout the U.S. as well as in Central America and Africa.

Today there are 108 Sisters of the Holy Family.

Venerable Delille featured in CHA resource

Venerable Henriette Delille, SSF, is among the ministry luminaries featured in CHA's A Call to Care, a 1996 book on women religious who helped to build the nation's Catholic health care ministry.


Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.