Who We Are


  • Our Story
  • Apostolic Sisters
  • International Community
  • Lay Holy Family

Our Story

Our Foundress

Saint Emilie De Rodat (1787-1852)

As a young child Emilie de Rodat had shown a great love for God and for the poor but during her teenage years she changed and these things held little meaning for her. At the age of sixteen, however, she had an experience of God’s love that was to change her life forever.

She wrote:

“I was sixteen years of age when
I learned to know Our Lord.
This experience overwhelmed me
and I wanted God and only God.”

With her faith once more alive in her heart she began to search for ways to serve God and to fulfil his plan for her life with a whole new energy and passion.  She started to ask questions and to think deeply about her future.  She thought of dedicating her life to God as a nun and made several attempts but it never seemed to work out.

One day whilst she was visiting the poor in her town she met a group of women. They were talking about their children and how there was no one to teach them or tell them about God.  These words seemed like an arrow piercing Emilie’s soul. She wrote:

“I told them to send their children to me and that I would educate them myself.
I would be a teacher for the poor.”

With three companions she founded the Congregation.  It was a time of great joy for these young women but also a time of trial.  Many challenges had to be faced.  Very soon other needs were made known:  orphans, the sick and housebound, prisoners and prostitutes.  Many more young women joined her in her mission and with love, gentleness and enthusiasm they tried together to respond to the needs of the poor around them.

Today throughout the world the Holy Family Sisters of Saint Emilie try to respond to the pressing needs of their time and to reveal the face of the God of love to all especially the poor and marginalised.

  • Do you feel inspired to do something wonderful with your life as Emilie did?
  • Do you feel challenged to respond to the needs of the poor and most needy in our times?

If so you might want to find out more about our way of life.  Contact us and we will be happy to tell you more.

Our History

1816 : Emilie de Rodat founded the Congregation.
1875 : The Congregation was approved by Rome.
1894 : First foundation in Lebanon (Beirut).
1895 : The Sisters took responsibility for their first hospitals (Rulhe, Caussade).
1901 : First foundation in Switzerland (Sierre).
1902–1904 : Anti-congregation laws in France the Sisters were dispersed
1902 : Brazil (Camaragibe, near Recife).
1903 : Spain (Cordoba), England.
1904 : Belgium (Blaton).
1908 : Egypt (Mansourah).
1938 : Italy (Rome).
1940 : Mother Emilie was beatified.
1950 : 23rd April, St Emilie de Rodat was canonised.
1957 : First departure for Bolivia and Ivory Coast.
1962 : Senegal.
1967 : Our foundation in Ireland.
1985
 : Approval of the new Constitutions.
1994 : Foundation in Argentina.
2004 : Foundation in the Philippines.
2012 : Foundation in India
2020 : The Future; who knows what this will bring? Our hopes are high.

Apostolic Sisters

What is the meaning of the word “Apostle”?  It means to be sent out by Christ.  This is the basis of our missionary drive as Holy Family Sisters.  We are sent by Christ on mission in the spirit of our foundress Saint Emilie.

As a young woman, Saint Emilie was very conscious of her apostolic calling especially on one occasion when she met a group of mothers distressed because their children were growing up without an education and with no knowledge of their faith. This poverty had a profound effect on Emilie and she resolved to ‘go out’ and become a teacher of these little ones.

And so it follows that when she founded the Congregation of the Holy Family she was desirous that the Sisters would have a strong apostolic spirit ever ready to go out and respond to those who are most in need. 

Find out more about Becoming a Holy Family Sister.

International Community

Saint Emilie wrote, “Your charity must cross the seas.” and at another moment she said, “Our love must be practical and extend to everyone.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and our love must be a proof of this.”  We, the Sisters of the Holy Family try to be faithful to these words by listening to God’s call and by trying to respond to the needs of God’s people wherever we feel able.

Today the Holy Family Sisters have communities throughout the world.

Our Mother House is still in Villefranche-de-Rouergue in France and we also live, work and worship in England, Ireland, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Ivory Coast, Italy, Lebanon, Philippines, Senegal and Spain.

Recently we opened two new communities in the Philippines where we have built an orphanage and are working with street children.

In England we have a group of young Indian women preparing to become full members in our congregation. When they have learned enough about our way of life and have made their final vows they will return to India to build communities there and to do all they can to reveal the tenderness and love of God to all they meet through their love and service.

Find out more about Becoming a Holy Family Sister.

Lay Holy Family

Groups of lay people who by association with the Sisters of the Holy Family aim to support each other in living Gospel values in today’s world.

As Lay Holy Family we aim like the Sisters of the Holy Family to make our lives “a continuation of the mystery of Incarnate Love” and to reveal to the world in which we live “the face of a God of tenderness and compassion” close to the weak and marginalised.

Prayer is vital for us as lay holy family.  It is our personal nourishment, our manner of speaking and of communicating with God in union with the whole Church. Prayer in daily life allows God to work in us.

A Lay Holy Family Member takes the means to nourish his/her Spiritual life on a personal and group level by:

  • Making time for personal prayer each day.
  • Rereading one's life in the Light of the Gospel
  • Regular reading of the Scriptures and writings of Saint Emilie
  • Sharing God’s Word/ Biblical Formation

Mission: We endeavour to live the Spirit of Nazareth by becoming actively engaged with the world with all its joys, complexities and injustices.

In order to be faithful to our vocation we struggles against injustice in the face of all forms of poverty which challenges us and we endeavour to put our gifts and talents at the service of God’s people.

Find out more about Becoming a Lay Holy Family Member.