March 15, 1729 — Sister St. Stanislas Hachard (1704-1760) took her vows today in New Orleans, making her America’s first official nun.
The founder and first abbess of the Ursuline Convent in French Louisiana, her biography is known thanks to the letters she wrote home to her family in France. They been preserved, published, and are valued as a source of historical information about her journey to the US, which began in 1727.
Sister Hachard was among 12 nuns who spent their lives establishing a New Orleans-based orphanage, and a school that educated girls. They also created the colony’s military hospital, and sustained an aggressive program of catechesis among the enslaved population of colonial Louisiana. Their work helped contribute to the development of a large, active Afro-Catholic congregation in New Orleans.
Words of Wisdom
“Bread costs ten cents a pound and is made of Indian corn meal; eggs from fifty cents a dozen; milk fourteen cents a gallon, We eat meat, fish, peas, and wild beans and many kinds of fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, which is the most excellent of all fruits; watermelon, sweet potatoes; pippins . . . figs, bananas, pecans, cashews.
"In fact, we live on wild beef, deer, swans, geese and wild turkeys, hares, hens, ducks, teals, pheasants, partridges, quails and other fowl and game of different kinds. The rivers are teeming with enormous fish, especially turbot which is an excellent fish, ray, carp, and many other fishes unknown in France. They make much use of chocolate with milk and coffee. A lady of the country has given good provision of it. We drink it every day. During Lent, meat is allowed three times a week, and during the year, meat is allowed on Saturday as in the Island of St. Domingo.
"We accustom ourselves wonderfully well to the wild food of this country. We eat bread which is half rice and half flour. There is here a wild grape larger than the French grape, but it is not in clusters. It is served in a dish like plums. What is eaten most and is most common is rice cooked with milk. The people of Louisiana find very good a food called 'sagamite,' which is made of Indian corn crushed in a mortar, then boiled in water, and eaten with butter or cream."