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60 Years of Cenacle Mission and Service to the Gulf Coast Area
"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!" Luke 12: 49

In the beginning a diocesan priest, a mountain woman and other generous women of faith responded to God’s call to “make Jesus better known and loved” in their time. 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.

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. Stephen 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 Couderc 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.

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

The Most Reverend Christopher E .Byrne encouraged the development of lay women’s retreats. Through this effort, the Catholic Laywomen’s Retreat Association was established in the 1930’s.    This group continued to work each year to host retreats for women. In 1950 they began to seriously look at having a retreat house established in the Houston area.

As with most organizations there were many ups and downs in trying to find a location to build and the funds required.  Most Rev. Wendelin J. Nold met with Rev. Mother Ida Barlow and Mother  Mary Angela Roduit who had returned to Houston to visit with the Bishop and after a bit of negotiations were given permission to use the Scanlan property, now known as “Sienna Plantation” to begin what would eventually be the Cenacle Retreat House.

The home had been vacant for nearly five years, left empty after the death of the last surviving Scanlan daughter.  As their Foundress had done before them, they rolled up their sleeves and began the hard work of preparing the property for future visitors. On October 9, 1955 the first Mass was held in the chapel on the property.  It was a candlelight Mass because they were still without light fixtures.  The Cenacle Sisters’ long relationship began with the Basilian Fathers who were the first to offer Mass and continue to do on a weekly basis today.

In the 1960’s the congregation began to look for property closer in to Houston. They were able to purchase 9 acres off Kirkwood  Road. The property is surrounded by bayou on 3 sides and until the 1980’s Kirkwood did not go through. A winding trail through the neighborhood led to the front door.

In 2013 the Cenacle Sisters welcomed over 4,000 men and women to the Cenacle for retreats, group days of prayer, individual directed retreats, and those who simply want to enjoy our grounds.  The Cenacle Sisters continue to respond to God’s call to “make Jesus better known and loved” in their time.

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