New Orleans is of course home to the Saints football team, but did you know that it is also the home of the (potentially) first New Orleanian to be declared a saint by the Catholic church? Henriette Delille was a woman of the 1800s, born to a Frenchman and a free woman of color. She grew up trained in the art of placage, a social practice of the time in French and Spanish colonies where white men entered into a contractual agreement with women of color, thereby circumventing the laws of the time prohibiting interracial marriage. Naturally, Henriette was expected to inherit her mother’s role in society. But she rejected the system which (not surprisingly) favored the wealthy men, and took advantage of many women with little or no options in life. Instead, the venerable Henriette Delille devoted her life to helping others. At age 24, she had a religious awakening. Because she was a third generation product of interracial marriage, she could have passed for white in many circles, and most of her relatives did just that. But she chose to identify as black which precluded her from joining any of the established religious organizations. Unwaivering in her mission, she founded her own organization, a multicultural order of nuns now known as The Sisters of the Holy Family who have maintained the mission of their founder for 175 years – to nurse the sick, care for the poor, and instruct the ignorant. In 1989, the sisters formally opened a case with the Vatican to canonize their founder. Two of her alleged miracles must be validated by the Vatican before Henriette Delille can officially be named a New Orleans saint. To learn more about the life of this amazing woman, visit the exhibition at the museum at the old Ursulines convent at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines in the Historic French Quarter.
A REAL New Orleans Saint!
Jul 25, 2017 | News