By Christine Bordelon
A procession of cheers, dance, music and pictures of black Catholic saints Nov. 4 around the Gentilly neighborhood of the Sisters of the Holy Family let a part of New Orleans know the contributions of black saints at the annual Black Saints Celebration.
This year’s march honored the 175th anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans. After the hour-long march, participants reached the chapel of the Sisters of the Holy Family, where Deacon Jesse Watley spoke of the founding of the Sisters of the Holy Family by Mother Henriette Delille, Juliette Gaudin and Josephine Charles and how they preserved the Catholic faith and believed everyone deserved an education because they were a child of God.
“Your light must shine before others so they many see your good deeds,” Deacon Watley told the sisters. He called them the salt of the earth, harkening back to Jesus’ time when salt was so necessary to one’s existence. Salt also adds flavor, just as the Sisters of the Holy Family did in New Orleans when they began teaching African-Americans. “They preserved the faith and education for people like us,” he told the mostly African-American crowd. “They kept the fires of education going and instilled in me the desire to learn, the importance of an education.
They did it for me and others like me. … We stand here today because they were the salt of the earth.” He also encouraged those gathered to speak to young people about vocations in order to continue the work of the sisters. “We, too, are called to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth … it is time for us to act like it.”