Venerable Henriette DelilLe
Born: New Orleans, 1813
Died: New Orleans, 1862
Feast Day: Established at beatification
Venerable Henriette DeLille was the first Mother of the Sisters of the Holy Family. During her youth, she was a victim of an unjust outgrowth of the French colonial system known as “plaçage,” according to which French or other white men took temporary concubines from the mixed, Indigenous, and Black female population. Herself born of one of these exploitative relationships, she appears to have been selected for one at a young age. As a result she may have had two children by the age of 19 and, tragically, both boys died at a young age.
At the age of 24, she experienced a deepening conversion that affected the course of her life. Even though she could pass as white, she resolved to stand with the mixed, Black, and poor communities in New Orleans. She became a critic of the plaçage system and committed herself to educating slaves in the antebellum South.
She was excluded by race from the established religious orders, but she founded a society called the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, later renamed as noted above. After decades of service in this community, she died of tuberculosis during the Civil War in 1862—just before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon.com Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn small commissions by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We may receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of our retailer links. There is no additional charge to you. All our recommendations have been made aside from these considerations and all opinions and suggestions are our own.
Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood by Michael R. Heinlein (Amazon)
The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette DeLille by M. Shawn Copeland (Amazon)
Purchase a Print
Visit our shop.
To learn about other diverse Catholic saints, click here.