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Sr Doris Goudeaux, SSF, promoter of Venerable Henriette DeLille, dead at 91

A Black nun and former co-director of canonization efforts for her order's foundress, Venerable Henriette DeLille, has died in New Orleans.

(Tribute Archive)

Sr Doris Goudeaux, a Sister of the Holy Family and noted promoter of their foundress Venerable Henriette DeLille's cause for canonization, has passed away in New Orleans roughly a week shy of DeLille’s 160th death anniversary. Goudeaux was 91 years old and had been in declining health.

The news was first announced on Wednesday, November 9 by her nephew Deacon Mark Guidry, who had been providing online updates on her condition.

“Our beloved aunt was most instrumental to Henriette DeLille’s cause for sainthood,” he wrote in a final update, adding an ode drawn from the most famous words from the Black Creole saint-to-be.

“Like her founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, she too lived and died for God.”

Born in 1931 in Goudeau, Louisiana, a small town in Acadiana north of Opelousas, Goudeaux was raised in Port Arthur, Texas at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Like many Catholics in her day, she was attracted to religious life at a young age, entering the nation’s second-oldest order of Black nuns in her late teens. She pronounced final vows in 1957, having taken the name Marie Assumpta, and received degrees from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, the University of Detroit Mercy, and Louisiana State University.

Goudeaux was among the first Black students ever to attend Cardinal Stritch University, and she was noted as having been an advocate against racism at LSU, especially among religious sisters from other orders, who were White. During the Civil Rights Movement, she was also one of several Sisters of the Holy Family who traveled to Atlanta in 1968 for the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., after which she participated in the funeral march.

Among her teaching posts during her 73-year ministry were stops in St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans, the flagship school of her 185-year-old order; the historic Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette; Holy Ghost Catholic School in Opelousas; St. Francis Xavier in Baton Rouge; and St. Nicholas in Houston.

She also served in administration for her order, including a number of years in the Henriette Delille Commission Office, following the opening of the foundress’ cause for canonization in 1988. During Goudeaux’s life, DeLille progressed from the first stage of the process to being named Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Goudeaux also helped oversee a number of miracle investigations, including as recently as 2019.

In early 2020, Goudeaux’s first book was published with Liguori Publications, entitled “An Hour with Mother Henriette Delille” and part of a series of short handbooks on Catholic saints and those with open sainthood causes.

Devoted to the DeLille cause even in poor health, Goudeaux was also listed earlier this year among lecturers and visiting faculty for “The Search for Black Founding Mothers,” an institute partnered with the National Endowment for Humanities to provide resources to middle and high school educators on notable African-American women.

Promoters of the sainthood cause, including her nephew, were also known to post videos online of Goudeaux’s prayers concerning DeLille, with the final such video being posted in late September.

Goudeaux’s funeral has been scheduled for Monday, November 14 at 10am CT in the motherhouse of the Holy Family Sisters at 6901 Chef Menteur Hwy, New Orleans. The Mass will be celebrated by Fr Charles “Chuck” Andrus, SSJ and visitation begins at 8am. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will be required for entry.

The liturgy will also be livestreamed on Facebook as well as on Zoom.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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