First of its kind: New Orleans opens house of discernment for women


With finger sandwiches, prayers and the good wishes of dozens of visiting nuns, the Archdiocese of New Orleans on Wednesday turned over a vacant Uptown rectory where single women will live together while deciding whether to undertake lives as nuns. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who dedicated the St. Rita Parish rectory to its new use, said the Magnificat House of Discernment for Women is the first of its kind in the country.

The center occupies the second and third floors of the St. Rita rectory on Lowerline, near St. Mary’s Dominican High School.

Within a few days two women, then perhaps three more, will move into the spotless rectory, their collective lives to be superintended by two veteran nuns who will show the younger women the dynamics of shared community life.

“How we live in community. How to communicate. How to share,” said Sister Carmen Bertrand, for 48 years a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Beyond orienting them to the rhythms of community life, Bertrand and her colleague, Sister Diane Roche, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, will teach the tenants various modes of prayer, organize occasional retreats, and bring in representatives of other religious orders to present themselves and their ways of life.

The subjects of their attention will be women like Paige LaCour, 22, of Gretna, a recent graduate of Our Lady of Holy Cross College headed for graduate studies at Notre Dame Seminary, or other women working full-time jobs while considering whether they have a call to religious life, Bertrand said.

Another confirmed tenant is a lawyer-turned-teacher, Bertrand said.

Beyond that, email inquiries are beginning to appear as word of the house begins to circulate, she said.

The Magnificat House — named for Mary’s prayer of praise in the Gospel of Luke — can hold six or eight women for stays that probably will last about six months, depending on individual circumstance, she said.

Aymond said a few religious orders have similar houses of discernment for their own organizations, but apparently no other diocese has one cooperatively managed by all the local orders of religious women.

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