The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designates November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate and remember the heritage of Black Catholics. Africa traces its Christian roots to the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Philip the Deacon as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (8: 26-40). North Africa subsequently became an important Church center in early Christianity.
The following people are just a sampling of those who help form the heritage of Black Catholics. For more, please consult the National Black Catholic Congress website.
(A different person will be featured each week of November)
Venerable Henriette Delille, 1812-1842
Henriette Delille is the first United States native-born African American whose cause for canonization has been officially opened by the Catholic Church.
Henriette Delille, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1812, was a real-life person like you and me. She lived all of her life in New Orleans and had family and friends.
Henriette was very devout and loved God very much. Because of her love for Jesus and for the sake of the Gospel, she was determined to help those in need. Henriette, as she made her way through life, bore many crosses, encountered obstacles, and suffered personal illness.
By her example she taught us that perseverance and sanctity can be attained by following the path of Jesus. It was in this manner that she dealt with her major obstacles and troubles to achieve her goals.
Some of the troubles Henriette Delille faced were the resistance of the ruling population to the idea of a black religious congregation; the lack of finances to more fully serve those in need; the taunts and disbelief of people in her mission; the lack of support from both the Church and civil authority and poor health.
However, Henriette practiced heroic virtue. She had faith, lived in hope and love, was compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. She believed in justice and was not afraid to do what was right in the eyes of God.
God blessed her efforts and in 1842, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family. Henriette died November 17, 1862. Her funeral was held at St. Augustine Church.
Her obituary states, “… Miss Henriette Delille had for long years consecrated herself totally to God without reservation to the instruction of the ignorant and principally to the slave … .”
“…Worn out by work, she died at the age of 50 years … . The crowd gathered for her funeral testified by its sorrow how keenly felt was the loss of her who for the love of Jesus Christ had made herself the humble servant of slaves.”
The following is Henriette’s prayer that inspired her courage to found the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family.
“I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God.”