No Cross, No Crown by Sister Mary Bernard Deggs
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No Cross, No Crown
By Sister Mary Bernard Deggs

No Cross, No Crown

Black Nuns in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

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Edited by Virginia Meacham Gould See other recent books by Virginia Meacham Gould See other recent books by Charles E. Nolan
Format: Paperback

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No Cross, No Crown by Sister Mary Bernard Deggs

Book Description

Nineteenth-century New Orleans was a diverse city. The French-speaking Catholic Creoles, whether black, white, or racially mixed-so different from the city's English-speaking residents-inspired intense curiosity and speculation. But none of the city's inhabitants evoked as much wonder as did the Sisters of the Holy Family, whose mission was to evangelize slaves and free people of color and to care for the poor, sick, and elderly. These women, whose community still thrives, are portrayed in an account written between 1896 and 1898 by one of their sisters, Mary Bernard Deggs, who shortly before her death made it her mission to record the remarkable historical journey the women had taken to serve those of their race. Although Deggs did not officially join the Sisters of the Holy Family until 1873, she was a student at the sisters' early school on Bayou Road and thus would have known, as a child, Henriette Delille, the founder and first mother superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the other women who joined her. This account captures, in a most graphic way, the founding of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans in 1842 and the difficult years that followed. It was not until 1852 that the foundresses were able to take their first official vows and exchange their blue percale gowns for black ones (and it was 1873 before they were permitted to wear a formal religious habit). Shortly before Delille's death in 1862, Union forces seized the city, and Delille's successor, Juliette Gaudin, faced dire economic circumstances. The war and postwar years economically devastated New Orleans and its population. Freed slaves poured into the city, unintentionally adding themselves to the already overwhelming mission of the sisters. Those were the poorest and most uncertain years the sisters were to face. We know very little about Sister Mary Bernard Deggs herself, but her history of the early years of the Sisters of the Holy Family, written more than a century ago and reproduced here in edited form, makes it clear that today's community of women-their dedication to the poor, to education, to the care of the elderly and orphaned-comes from a long and complex tradition that grew in response to the social needs of "their people."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780253215437
ISBN-10: 0253215439
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 156mm x 15mm)
Pages: 264
Imprint: Indiana University Press
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publish Date: 5-Aug-2002
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Sister Mary Bernard Deggs

Virginia Meacham Gould teaches history at Our Lady of the Holy Cross College in New Orleans and is author of Chained to the Rock of Adversity. Charles E. Nolan is Archivist of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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