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Religious order still reeling from Katrina aftermath, says speaker


Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, SSF speaks at Emmanuel College Nov. 4. Pilot photo/Christine Williams

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BOSTON -- With few resources and a strong desire to help the poor, the Sisters of the Holy Family, founded in New Orleans in 1842, face many of the same challenges encountered by their foundress, Sister Henriette Delille.

Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything the sisters had in New Orleans in September 2005, the sisters, like those before them, have faced homelessness and relied on the kindness of others to provide for themselves and the people they serve, Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, SSF, told The Pilot prior to speaking at a fundraiser at Emmanuel College in Boston on Nov. 4.

“We are at a moment of refounding,” she said. “We have to start over again, and we are very much at this day and time the way we were when we were first founded.”

Sister Henriette, a free woman of African descent, founded the order 20 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. The first sisters served abandoned slaves, educated the children of slaves, and cared for the sick, the poor and the elderly, said Sister Sylvia.

She spoke of the similar position the Sisters of the Holy Family are now in post-Katrina.

When the levies gave way the order’s five facilities in New Orleans were destroyed, including their motherhouse, a high school, two independent living facilities for the elderly and the oldest continuous care nursing home in the United States, she said.

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