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Sisters of the Holy Family, 1899
The Sisters of the Holy Family based in New Orleans, Louisiana, were founded in 1837 as the Sisters of the Presentation by Henriette DeLille. In 1842, the religious institute changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family. Member use the Post-nominal letters S.S.F. which stands for Souers de la Sainte Famille.
Inspired by the work of Sr. St. Marthe Fontier, a member of the French religious order, Dames Hospitalier, who impressed her with her words of faith and acts of charity, around 1829, Henriette DeLille joined Juliette Gaudin, a Haitian, and Josephine Charles and began efforts to evangelize New Orleans slaves and free people of color. In 1836, Henriette and her friends formed the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, New Orleans' first confraternity of women of color. Their unofficial habit was a plain blue dress.
The congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family was established in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1842. In 1850 they order founded a school for girls. The Religious of the Sacred Heart provided Henriette, Juliette and Josephine spiritual formation and experience in formal religious community living. They took private vows on November 21, 1852. Father Etienne Rousselou, the congregation's advisor, named Henriette DeLille Mother Superior. She took the name Sister Mary Theresa; however, everyone called her Mother Henriette.
The Sisters of the Holy Family began as a diocesan congregation. They were assisted by Marie Jeanne Aliquot, who as a white French woman was prevented by law from joining a congregation of women of color. The Association of the Holy Family, a lay group of freepersons of color contributed financially, and helped found the Hospice of the Holy Family, for the elderly sick and poor. The sisters provided a home for orphans and taught slaves at a time under Louisiana law when educating slaves was illegal.
The Sisters of the Holy Family is a congregation of pontifical right. The motherhouse is in New Orleans. As of 2015 its members numbered 96 sisters. The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family have maintained their original ministries of educating youth and caring for the aged, and the poor. The Sisters have missions in Louisiana, Texas, California, Washington, D.C., and Belize, Central America.
In August 2015, actress Vanessa Williams, who produced the 2000 television movie The Courage to Love, about Henriette Delille, was a guest at a gala at the Hyatt Regency, New Orleans to raise funds for the health care and retirement needs of the elderly Sisters, as well as to the support of the religious order’s long-standing ministries.
The sisters remain active in pastoral care and education ministry in Opelousas, Lafayette, and Ville Platte in the Diocese of Lafayette.
Lafon Nursing Facility, a long term care facility, was first established by Henriette DeLille in 1841, the first and oldest Catholic nursing home in the United States. The sisters would take in sick and elderly women, providing care at their house on St. Bernard Avenue. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Lafon Old Folks Home was restored and reopened in 2010, and continues to provide nursing care.
St. Mary's Academy first opened on Chartres Street in December 1867, moved to the Quadroon Ballroom on Orleans Avenue in 1881, and to Chef Menteur Boulevard in 1965.