The Sisters of the Holy Family celebrate their 175th anniversary this year using the theme “Proudly Celebrating the Past … Faithfully Committed to the Future.”
The celebration began with a family day Oct. 9, 2016, and will culminate with a closing Mass at St. Louis Cathedral and banquet Nov. 19.
In between, a myriad of events are planned, including anniversary Masses in New Orleans, Lafayette and Compton, California, the congregation’s annual fundraiser “Heavenly Hosts of Stars Gala” and various service days and tours of sites of founder Henriette Delille’s life.
One of the most distinctive events will be riding in an Uptown Mardi Gras parade on Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. with the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale. Twenty sisters, dressed in their regular veils, habits and wearing crucifixes, will be aboard a float – with two “La Dame” krewe captains – entitled: “175 Years Blessing New Orleans.”
It is one of 14 floats in the Femme Fatale parade, whose theme is games.
“We are their royal, honorary guests,” said Sister Greta Jupiter, congregational leader of the Sisters of the Holy Family.
Sister Greta said the ride – which she and others believe is the first time a women’s religious congregation has ridden in a parade as a group – came about through a suggestion by the congregation’s 30-plus member 175th committee. A letter of request was sent to the krewe by Sister Greta asking if it were possible. The request was received by Femme Fatale president Gwendolyn Rainey.
“We found it only befitting that they ride due to the work in the community and their history,” Rainey said. “We are standing on their shoulders. We have a number of members who are St. Mary’s Academy graduates. And I know, somewhere in my life, that their hands have touched me,” adding how she attended summer camp at the former St. Raymond Parish where the Sisters of the Holy Family had once served. “This is a history-making moment.”
Special bead thrown
The nuns will throw a special bead with a medallion that has the logo of Sisters of the Holy Family, 1842-2017, with their coat of arms and 175th anniversary on one side, and the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale est. 2013 on the other. The krewe had the medallion minted especially for the sisters, Rainey said. The bust of congregation founder, Venerable Henriette Delille, was omitted from the medallion due its details being difficult to recreate.
“I said she didn’t want to ride on the float anyway,” Sister Greta jested when she first heard Henriette’s image wouldn’t make it on the medallion. Then she channeled Venerable Delille by saying, “I’m not going to be thrown by anybody.”
The Femme Fatale krewe also will provide the nuns with a ride to and from their float from the Hyatt Regency.
The Sisters of the Holy Family who are participating are eagerly anticipating their ride, even though some have previously ridden in parades – in the annual Krewe of Jingle Christmas parade sponsored by the Downtown Development District in New Orleans, and also in a parade celebrating the congregation’s 169th anniversary in the Tremé area passing places where Venerable Henriette Delille served.
“I’m excited to see Mardi Gras from the other side,” Sister of the Holy Family Judith Therese Barial said.
“It’s exciting. I am looking forward to it,” Sister of the Holy Family Alicia Costa said. “I can’t wait to hear, ‘Throw me something sister!’”
The nuns also will be acknowledged as their float passes the reviewing stands at Gallier Hall, where they hope to have other members of the congregation, who were unable to ride, in attendance cheering them on.
Make Henriette known
Sister Greta hopes the ride will create more of an awareness of the Sisters of the Holy Family’s long history of service to the community and its ministries today that include care to seniors at Lafon Nursing Facility, feeding the homeless and education with St. Mary’s Academy. She’s also hoping it will further the cause of its founder, Venerable Henriette Delille, on her way to sainthood.
“Parades are part of a celebration,” Sister Greta said. “And I really wanted the visibility of the Sisters of the Holy Family celebrating its 175th year. This parade going the traditional route down St. Charles Avenue would give us that visibility. … and to get as many people as we can to know the life, legacy and history of Henriette Delille and pray for her. I think it will help (her cause for sainthood).”
If anyone has beads they would like to donate to the Sisters of the Holy Family for the ride, call the motherhouse at 241-3088.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.