The History of the Center of Jesus the Lord
The Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Teresa of the Discalced Carmelites of New Orleans
One-hundred-twenty-five years ago - 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, 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 holy women dwelled within these walls in poverty, spending their time in intercessory prayer for all mankind, thus 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 providing help 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 perseverance and commitment of the faith community and the power of the Holy Spirit the doors remained open.
Presently the Center of Jesus the Lord is under the direction of Fr. John M. Capuci and is a Catholic Charismatic Retreat Center and worshiping community. We minister in the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit to all seeking healing and renewal. Fr. Capuci was ordained as a priest in the archdiocese of Boston in 1990 and has been in the Charismatic Renewal since 1980. He has traveled throughout the United States preaching about the gifts and love of the Holy Spirit. Using humor and flowing in the Gifts of Word of Knowledge and Healing, Fr. Capuci has prayed with hundreds and has authored the book, Opening the Gates of Praise. He is very much in demand as a speaker at Charismatic events.
Since the arrival of Fr. Capuci the participation of the community has increased 375% and the Center of Jesus the Lord is being abundantly blessed. For example, the attendance at Sunday services increased from approximately 50 to 70 up to 225 to 280 people and even higher! With the growth of the community numerous outreach ministries are being established to achieve our mission:
· Retreat Ministries – workshops and seminars held regularly that renew and educate the heart mind, through praise, meditation, small groups and teachings on a variety of spiritual and practical topics.
· Monday Night Bible Study – every Monday night all are welcome to come for a powerful night of scripture study and witnessing of God’s Word in the lives of people.
· Adult Sacramental Enrichment Program – for all interested in becoming Catholic, renewing their faith, receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, learning more about the Catholic Church (also those belonging to other denominations) and those who are not yet married in the Catholic Church yet receive Holy Communion are invited.
· Food Bank Ministries – distributes over 3,000 lbs. monthly of food to the needy and homeless to a variety of affiliated organizations such as Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Centers and a center that serves homeless teens all in the New Orleans area.
· Evangelization Outreach Ministry – a cast of 50 members from the Center of Jesus the Lord travel throughout the Archdiocese, ministering and giving hope to people of all religions, races and ages portraying the powerful passion play of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Also on Good Friday we have a walk for a charity with Stations of the Cross portrayed while visiting nine New Orleans churches.
· Healing Ministry – ministering to physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs to all seeking healing and renewal.
· Prayer Ministry – continuing our tradition of a house of intercessory prayer for special intentions an all mankind including a 24-hour prayer line.
· Children’s Liturgy Program – specially prepared for children kindergarten through fifth grade held separately at Mass during the Liturgy of the Word.
· Pastoral Counseling - spiritual guidance available through three spiritual directors on staff.
· Women’s Ministry – provides fellowship and support to specifically meet women’s spiritual and emotional needs.
· Retreat Services Ministry – hosts other groups to come and hold their private retreats and conferences.
It has been over a quarter of a century since a man of vision; Fr. Emile Lafranz opened the Center. In that time countless numbers of people walked through this door to experience Jesus in a new and powerful way that has changed their lives and helped them to become whole and holy people. Come and experience Jesus.