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Henriette Delille

In the spring of 1838, in a small chapel on St. Claude Street in New Orleans, Henriette Delille, a free creole woman of African descent, and Fr. Etienne Rousellon, a white priest, served as godparents to fourteen-year-old Marie Therese Dagon, a free black catechumen. This simple tableaux had been repeated many times, through many generations, by other creole women of color and other white priests who also performed the baptisms. It is perhaps the best explanation for why, against nearly insurmountable odds, Henriette Delille was ultimately successful in founding the U.S. Church’s second black order of nuns, the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Essay and prayer by Christine Schenk, CSJ