The History of the Center of Jesus the Lord
The Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Teresa
of the Discalced Carmelites of New Orleans
On November 21, 1877, four Sisters from the Carmelite convent in St Louis arrived in New Orleans to found the Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Teresa of the Discalced Carmelites of New Orleans. Among the four were two Creole daughters of Louisiana, Louise J. Roman, professed as Mother Teresa of Jesus, and Marie Eliza Tremoulet, professed as Sister Marguerite.
In 1878 the four nuns moved into a pre-Civil War cottage at 134 Barracks. The 22-foot walls surrounding the monastery now enclose this original building. The sisters spread their rambling convent through the square adding buildings, courtyards, (there are 14 courtyards), a fruit orchard, terraced rooftop recreation patios, a multilevel collage of cells, (the nuns’ tiny sparsely furnished bedrooms), refectory, oratory, infirmary, chapels and corridors all linked to one another. The permanent monastery was completed in 1895. On November 12 of 1895 the Archbishop of New Orleans consecrated the chapel, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Our Lord.
Discalced Carmelites are a contemplative order of women who live in strictly cloistered monasteries. The Discalced Carmelite order is a reformed order of Carmelites restored to its primitive rule by St. Teresa of Avila, in Spain, in the 16th century. Discalced means no shoe, barefooted; the Carmelites who originally came here wore a type of sandal, hemp alpargaes, which in those days were not considered shoes. The nuns spent most of their time praying, including the Divine Office, (Liturgy of the Hours), a prayer that begins early in the morning with lauds and continues at intervals throughout the day into the evening. The nuns were artists and artisans; they painted religious paintings; sewed and embroidered vestments and linens; baked hosts and bread; planted gardens; they even made their own sandals. This Carmel community (a Carmelite monastery) translated and published books for the English speaking Carmel communities throughout the world.
Today, the New Orleans Discalced Carmelites are a growing thriving community; they live in a monastery “across the lake” from New Orleans in the piney woods of St. Tammany Parish. Their former monastery, this the Monastery of Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa, is now a Catholic Charismatic Retreat Center, the Center of Jesus the Lord.
These dwelled within these walls in poverty, spending their time in intercessory prayer for all mankind, thus it was known as a. house of prayer. The Carmelites were forced to leave this location in 1971 due to the fact that they were no longer able to maintain the deteriorating condition of the facility.
The building was left dormant for four years during which time the physical condition became increasingly deplorable. In 1975 Fr. Emile Lafranz, a man of vision, then began work to re-open this property. Fr. Lafranz called the community the Center of Jesus the Lord and worked tirelessly with a myriad of volunteers that came forward to rebuild the physical and spiritual community of this House of Prayer. As soon as the physical building was sufficiently renovated prayer meetings, healing services, retreats, conferences and individual counseling were some of the means used for the spiritual renewal to heal the broken hearted. In addition, more active works of charity such as feeding and clothing the poor and for those with certain chemical dependent problems were also undertaken.
At this point the Center of Jesus the Lord was thriving as a spiritual oasis where God’s mercy, love and healing presence has transformed the lives of countless thousands from both near and far. After the death of Fr. Lafranz, the community of the Center of Jesus the Lord experienced difficult times but due to the intervention of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and and the power of the Holy Spirit the doors remained open.
The Center of Jesus the Lord was next under the direction of Fr. John M. Capuci from thearchdiocese of Boston. The Center became and is a Catholic Charismatic Retreat Center and worshiping community. Its mission statement is we minister in the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit to all seeking healing and renewal. With the arrival of Fr. Capuci, the community grew and numerous outreach ministries were established to achieve its mission:
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city of New Orleans. The Center suffered over $350,000 in damages. In October 2005, members of the community returned to New Orleans and the Center for the first celebration of the Eucharist since Hurricane Katrina. They began the task of restoring the Center and renewing its ministries to serve the people of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
From May 2009-June 2013, the Center was under the direction of Fr. Lance Campo.
It has been over 30 years since a man of vision; Fr. Emile Lafranz opened the Center. In that time countless numbers of people have walked through these door to experience Jesus in a new and powerful way. It has changed their lives and helped them to become whole and holy people. Come and experience Jesus.