The daughter of a white man, Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy, and Marie Josef Dias, a “free woman of color”; Henriette lived her entire life in the southern United States in a time prior to the abolition of slavery. Though they were both Roman Catholic, her parents could not be married under Louisiana law, but the mother and daughter lived a privileged life in a highly class-conscious society. The girl was educated in French literature, music, dancing, and nursing, Henriette’s mother planned a life for her in the plaçage system as the common-law wife of a wealthy white man. However, Henriette had no interest in such a life, and was drawn to the Church and religious life; she was turned away from the Ursulines and Carmelites. Teacher in the local Catholic school at age 14. When she was 22, her mother had a break-down, and Henriette took over the family assets. The next year, in 1836, she founded the Sisters of the Presentation. They were ecclesiastically recognized in 1837, and changed their name to Sisters of the Holy Family in 1842. They remain active today, teaching and caring for the poor and elderly.
O good and gracious God, you called Henriette Delille to give herself in service and in love to the slaves and the sick, to the orphan and the aged, to the forgotten and the despised. Grant that inspired by her life we might be renewed in heart and mind. If it be your will, may she one day be raised to the honor of sainthood. By her prayers may we live in harmony and peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – Prayer for the Beatification of Henriette Delille, Nihil Obstat: Rev. Msgr. Franz Graef, S.T.D., Imprimatur: Most Rev. Francis B. Schulte, Archbishop of New Orleans, 23 August 1997
- “Venerable Henriette Delille“. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 March 2010. Web. 29 April 2016. <>