Mother Delille effort in hands of Vatican investigators

The Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans await authentication of a miracle of the Venerable Henriette Delille, their founder, as her cause for sainthood moves through the final steps. Sister Delille was the first native-born African American to have her cause for canonization officially opened by the church. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI declared her venerable. The authentication of one more miracle would result in beatification.
In September of this year the congregation 111414delilleunveiled a portrait of their founder. The nine-by-four-foot painting by artist Ulrick Jean-Pierre was commissioned by late congregational leader, Sister Eva Regina Martin, SHF, and hangs in the motherhouse. It shows Sister Delille surrounded by the poor she served for her whole life with St. Augustine church in the background.
Delille was born a free woman of color in New Orleans in 1812. She was born into a family of concubines and may have even borne two sons who died as toddlers, but she had a conversion at the age of 24. At that time African-American women were not allowed in any religious order. Undaunted, Sister Delille studied with white nuns to learn about religious life. She and two friends formed a society, professed their own vows and started serving the poor and elderly of color in their community.
The group was recognized years later as the Sisters of the Holy Family. Last year two members of the congregation came to the Diocese of Jackson to encourage devotion to their founder in hopes of advancing her cause.
Sisters Doris Goudeaux and Laura Mercier, both SHF, said during their 2013 presentation that the Sisters of the Holy Family begged for support from the very start of their order. “No matter how they were treated, they depended on the Divine Providence of God,” said Sister Goudeaux. “They knew no matter what they suffered they would be rewarded. They knew they were doing what Jesus wanted them to do.” They picked up poor elderly and children off the streets and found a way to care for them. The Sisters are credited with opening the first nursing home in the United States, a ministry they are still running in New Orleans.
They educated slaves and made sure they were baptized as well as caring for those affected by yellow fever. In many cases, they had to teach their students in secret with little or no reliable support. “They begged in the street daily and some days they went to bed having only had sugar water,” said Sister Goudeaux.
Sister Delille died at the age of 50. Only one example of her writing exists, a simple but profound prayer she penned in the flyleaf of a book on the Eucharist right after her conversion. The congregation still uses the prayer today, encouraging others to say it. “I believe in God.  I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God.”