A field trip is ever exciting, especially if the occasion is something as rare as a 175th Anniversary. There was excitement at 11:00 a.m. November 19 on N. Union St. just south of Holy Ghost Church. Boarding the large bus with its plush seats and ample space had an adrenalin kick about it, as smiling, eager faces fed off the rush and anticipation of their fellow travelers. It is extra gratifying when you can kick back, talk, nap or take in the roadside scenery and “leave the driving to them.”
Having gifted us with two bewitchingly pleasant weekends, Mother Nature decided to grant us one more beguiling weekend in order that the Sisters of the Holy Family would have free reign to move about and celebrate to the fullest. Theirs is an international celebration, for since 1842 they have, in their words, “been the faces of love, mercy and compassion to the people of God in the United States, Belize, Central America; and Benin City, Nigeria; Africa. The Sisters have faithfully ministered in our schools, parishes, nursing home, prisons, and housing for the elderly.”
In a whirlwind November 2017, the Sisters of the Holy Family have embraced the Annual Black Saints Celebration on November 5 in New Orleans; a November 2017 Youth Mass in New Orleans; a November 11 Feeding of the Homeless at Ozanam Inn at 1:00 p.m.; a November 17-19 Associates Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Hotel; a November 17-18 Historical Bus Tour of Various SSF Ministries; on November 19, the 3:00 p.m., Closing Mass at Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, followed by a banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans.
Actually, the Sisters of the Holy Family kicked off their big 175th Anniversary bash on November 19, 2016, giving themselves ample time in which to celebrate, give lectures and conduct tours before the grand finale on November 19, 2017.
For over 40 years, the Sisters of the Holy Family served the youth at Saint Albert the Great and Our Lady of Victory School and (formerly Regina Caeli) Queen of Angels Academy High School in Compton, California. Therefore, everyone in the area was invited to join in the 175 Anniversary of the Sisters at a 9:00 o’clock a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 7, 2017 at Saint Albert the Great Church at 804 E. Compton Boulevard in Compton, California.
Saint Joseph Church in Alexandria, Virginia hosted a festive Mass for the 175th Anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Family. However, no dates are given.
With several seasoned tour guides like Barbara Trevigne on duty, Friday, November 17 was a special bus-run tour day of all the SSF ministries in New Orleans, with a smaller tour on Saturday. Compare this with the startling fact that Henriette Delille had only a dozen adherents in her religious community at the time of her death in 1862, a number that peaked at 400 by 1950.
Highway 190/Interstate 10 allowed our bus to arrive at Café du Monde near Saint Louis Cathedral in a leisurely two and a half hours, in spite of the fact that the victorious NFL Saints were playing in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. So our bus blocked traffic momentarily and disgorged us next to Café du Monde whence we strolled across sun-bathed, people-jammed Jackson Square to the cathedral.
Built for about 1800, Saint Louis Cathedral can squeeze in 2000 worshipers. We were disappointed to see a bit less-than-full house, but all present witnessed scores of Sisters of the Holy Family present, dozens of nuns of other religious institutes, 28 priests, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, 13 bishops, with the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States presiding and preaching. An elaborate processional with the un-cathedral-like sound of a large keyboard and full-throated rounds of the mini gospel choir led by Richard Cheri began a ceremony that ran two hours, with many salutes to the Sisters of the Holy Family. Seated with relatives of Henriette Delille, I could see that the organizers missed part of the historicity of the moment by not recognizing in some way which living relatives of Henriette Delille were present.
The nuns and other important people made for the banquet room while we repaired to our bus to make food arrangements and hit the road home again.
Lest such a powerful celebration turn out to be a 175-year Pyrrhic victory for the Sisters of the Holy Family with the extreme decline in their personnel, we must close ranks with them wherever possible to help them by prayer and by word of mouth. From a high of 400 in 1950, their numbers have slid below 90. We can ditto that for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, down from 600+ to about 104. We must constantly implore God’s Holy Spirit to reignite a consuming fire soon.
Rev. Jerome LeDoux, SVD
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)