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Mon, 11.21.1842

The Sisters of the Holy Family Congregation is Founded

The Sisters of The Holy Family Parish, a Black congregation of pontifical status, was founded on this date in 1842 in New Orleans.

It was founded by a free woman of African descent, Henriette Delille, some 20 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.   Others who assisted Delille were Juliette Gaudin, born in Cuba to Haitian parents, and Mlle Alcot, a young French woman.

It was started under the direction of Father Etienne Rousselon, Vicar-General of the Diocese of New Orleans.  These young women began their work of educating the Black children of slaves and caring for the sick, the poor, and the elderly.  Their early mission was to teach catechism and prepare children and adults for first communion and confirmation, a mission that gradually extended in scope.

In 1909, Holy Family grew to 105 sisters whose congregation was responsible for an academy and many parochial schools attended by about 1300 pupils.  It included a haven for Black girls, a home for the aged, and industrial schools. Because of social customs and legislation regarding persons of African descent, the Sisters of the Holy Family were not officially recognized until 1842.  Josephine Charles, a free woman of color, joined them the following year.

The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family has maintained its original ministries of educating youth and caring for the aged, the poor, and the most abject of society.  The sisters own and operate the oldest continuous Catholic home for the aged in the United States and operate two independent facilities for low-income senior citizens in New Orleans. The sisters are administrators and educators of two preschool child development centers, one primary free school for the poor, two high schools, and 17 elementary schools in the United States. They also have ongoing involvement in the Diocese of Benin City, Nigeria; West Africa founded the first vocational school in Belize, Central America, for those students who can't attend regular high school classes.

It is in the Archdioceses of New Orleans and the Dioceses of Galveston, Little Rock, and Honduras.  The Sisters of The Holy Family follow the rule of St. Augustine.

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Poetry Corner

O’ de wurl’ ain’t flat,An’ de wurl’ ain’t roun’,H’it’s one long stripHangin’ up an’ down—Jes’ Souf an’ Norf;Jes’ Norf an’ Souf. —from Ariel Williams Holloway, “Northboun'” , 1926 “NORTHBOUND'” by Ariel Williams Holloway
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