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Women in History–Henriette deLille


Suzanne Stone, creator of Lucky Bean Tours’ French Quarter Fascinatin’ Women tour, continues her series of blog contributions profiling women in history.  This week, Suzanne examines three American women who have become Catholic saints, and one, Henriette deLille, who is on her way to becoming a saint. deLille was born in New Orleans and we tell her story on several of our New Orleans walking tours, including our St. Louis Cemetery#1 tour, French Quarter tour, and, of course, Suzanne’s own Fascinatin’ Women tour.

January 4, 1774 was the birth date of Elizabeth Ann Seton who became the first Catholic Saint born on territory that would become part of the United States. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975. Another saint — Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, baptized as Catherine and canonized By Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, was born in New Netherlands, which became part of the United States. The only Saint born in the United States is Saint Katherine Drexel, who was born in Pennsylvania and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. But she may be joined one day by Venerable Henriette DeLille, born in New Orleans in 1813, one year after Louisiana became a state.

The accomplishments of Henriette DeLille’s parallel those of these other saints: she founded a congregation or order of nuns (though unrecognized by the Catholic Church at its founding), the Sisters of the Holy Family. Both Mother Seton and Mother Katherine (Drexel) also founded ORDERS. Henriette DeLille and her sisters cared for the sick, helped the poor, and instructed free and enslaved, children and adults. Mother Seton established a Catholic girl’s school, and Mother Katherine dedicated herself to work among the American Indians and African-Americans in the western and southwestern United States. Saint Katerei, born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, on the south side of the Mohawk River, served in a Jesuit mission near Montreal.

But Henriette Delille did more: her order took into their home elderly women who needed more than visitation, and thereby opened America’s first Catholic home for the elderly.

You can learn more about the Ursuline Nuns, who came to New Orleans in 1724, and Henriette DeLille, on our French Quarter Fascinatin’ Women Tour.

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