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Blake Pontchartrain: The Henriette Delille Inn 

The home is named for the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family

click to enlarge Venerable Henriette Delille

Image courtesy Sisters of the Holy Family

Venerable Henriette Delille

Hey Blake,

What is the Henriette Delille Inn? It looks like an old folks' home more than a hotel.

Dear reader,

  You're right to describe the Delille Inn as a home for senior citizens. The five-story facility at 6924 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East has housed local seniors and those with special needs since 1987. It is named for Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family. The religious order is said to be the oldest female-led African-American organization in the United States. It runs the Delille Inn in partnership with Providence Community Housing and Christopher Homes.

  Born in New Orleans in 1812, Delille was a free woman of color. Though born into a life of privilege, the devout Catholic made it her work to care for the poor, sick and elderly, most notably slaves and free people of color. In 1837 she co-founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Presentation, whose name was changed to Sisters of the Holy Family in 1842. It was important since, at the time, black women could not enter all-white religious orders.

  Delille died in 1862.

  In 1881, the order moved its convent to the French Quarter, also establishing a girls' school, St. Mary's Academy, at 717 Orleans Ave., which previously had been the Orleans Ballroom, a site for quadroon balls. It now is the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.

  In 1955, the nuns left the French Quarter for a convent on Chef Menteur Highway, across from what now is the Delille Inn. They also relocated St. Mary's Academy and their other well-known facility, Lafon Nursing Home.

  Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures in 2005 badly damaged the properties. The senior citizen complex reopened in 2009 after more than $7 million in renovations. The nursing home reopened the next year and a new $36 million school campus was dedicated in 2011.

  In 1988, the process to canonize Delille as a saint was launched. She was declared "venerable" by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Two miracles attributed to her intercession need to be investigated and recognized in order for her to be named a saint. 

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