Founded in 1826
The Cenacle Sisters were founded in 1826 in La Louvesc, France by Saint Therese Couderc and Father Stephen Terme.
Marie-Victoire Couderc & Father Stephen Terme Meet at Mission
In the early part of the 19th century, the Church in France was beginning to take on new life after the disarray of the Revolution. When Marie-Victoire Couderc (Saint Therese Couderc) was a young woman, her father brought her home from school to participate with the rest of the family in a mission to be given at the little town of Sablieres, in the South of France, near the hamlet where she was born. One of the missionaries was an energetic and zealous diocesan priest named Stephen Terme.
Marie-Victoire Couderc Becomes Sister Therese
During the mission Marie-Victoire revealed to Father Terme that she would like to enter religious life. Father Terme had recently founded a small group of sisters, called the Sisters of St. Regis, to serve villages without Christian schools, so he offered to take her right away to the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Regis. Victoire's father was not pleased with this idea. After all, she was needed at home to help her mother care for the new baby in the family. But after some time at home, he eventually relented, and Marie-Victoire became Sister Therese.
The Beginnings of the Cenacle Congregation
In the mountain village of La Louvesc, where many pilgrims came during the season of good weather to pray at the shrine of St. Regis, there was no suitable place for women pilgrims to stay. Because of the lack of space, the innkeepers would house men and women together, and some women were even sleeping in the church.
Fr. Terme saw the need for a hostel for women pilgrims. He had no money, but he did have a great deal of trust in God, and before long the hostel opened. Sister Therese was sent to La Louvesc, first as novice director, then as superior, and when La Louvesc was named the mother house of the small congregation, she was named the superior general.
There was a problem, however. Business was booming. The sisters took in everyone who came to the door, and they didn't always have beds for everyone, so they spread straw in the corridors. And not only was the place crowded, but it was also noisy and unruly. So Mother Therese went to Fr. Terme and convinced him to make an important change: from then on, only women who were willing to pray for several days would be able to stay there.
Under the influence of Mother Therese, what was originally a hostel was taking the first step toward becoming a retreat house, where women could deepen their prayer and grow in the spiritual life. The process was completed when Father Terme introduced to the sisters the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. These became an important element in the spirituality of the Cenacle Sisters,as well as a way of helping the women who came to their houses to draw closer to God.
In due time, the ministry of retreats was separated from the ministry of teaching school, and the congregation which would be called the Cenacle was officially formed in 1826. This spiritual ministry is continued today in many countries throughout the world and here in North America by the Sisters of the Cenacle.
Cenacle Sisters Spread to North America
On July 8, 1892, four Sisters sailed from Le Havre, France to carry the Mission of the Cenacle across the Atlantic Ocean to make Jesus known and loved. These valiant women arrived in New York eight days later with $200 in their purse and hearts full of zeal.
The immigrant community settled in with Dominican Nuns in the Bronx.
Four months later, on November 4, 1892, they began the Cenacle Mission in North America in a home they rented in Manhattan. On June 29, 1894, our Sisters moved into a home they purchased. Here the Mission of the Cenacle flourished and spread to other parts of North America.
We, like our pioneer Sisters, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the decisions we make for the life of our Mission in North America. Our aim is to make the Gospel known to the people of our times.