Published September 15, 2005
The Cenacle Sisters are commemorating the bicentennial of the birth of the foundress of their order, St. Therese Couderc, by offering The Couderc Institute of Prayer, on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta.
This day-long seminar features the following workshops: “Praying with Scripture,” “Rediscovering Lectio Divina,” “The Prayer Journal,” “Praying the Labyrinth,” “‘Spiritual Exercises’ for the Body,” “Living with a Spirit of Prayerfulness,” “Introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” and “Faith, Prayer and Healthy Choices.”
Foundress Marie-Victoire Couderc was born on Feb. 1, 1805, in the mountain village of Le Mas in southern France. She was the second eldest of 12 children and had no formal education until she was 17 years of age. However, she learned to read and write, and she acquired a love of God, a devotion to the Eucharist and a thirst for virtue from her parents. In 1825 Couderc participated in a parish mission, the first since the beginning of the French Revolution. During the mission she approached Father Stephen Terme, one of the three priests leading the mission, and expressed her desire for Religious life. The missionary encouraged her even in spite of her father’s immediate refusal to give her his blessing. Nearly one year later, in January 1826, Couderc left her family and joined the little community of teaching sisters that Father Terme had founded. Two months later she received the habit and the name Sister Therese.
Father Terme recognized that Sister Therese had “good sense, good judgment, and a discernment of spirits.” Although she was only 23 years old, he appointed her superior of the community of sisters he brought to LaLouvesc to provide lodging for women coming to the shrine of St. John Francis Regis, a Jesuit missionary. Sister Therese was superior of the community at St. Regis House for 10 years. During those years the number in the community increased, and the ministry of the sisters shifted from that of hosting women pilgrims to that of directing them in retreats, accompanying them on their spiritual journeys, and educating them in the faith.
Sister Therese resigned as superior of the community at St. Regis House in 1838, and she never again served as superior. However, as the congregation expanded throughout France and beyond its borders, Sister Therese continued to participate wholeheartedly in the mission of the congregation and supported the sisters through her constant prayer, her listening heart, her encouraging letters and her own personal suffering.
Sister Therese’s spirituality may be summarized as one rooted in the love of God, the goodness of God and the will of God. It was marked by a passionate love of Jesus Christ and a burning desire to “make Jesus known and loved.” Her complete self-surrender to God and her ability to see goodness in all are precious jewels in the treasury of the congregation she and Father Terme nurtured nearly 180 years ago.
Sister Therese died on Sept. 26, 1885. When she was canonized on May 10, 1970, Pope Paul VI said of her, “Humble among the humble. She lived her life most humbly.” The true testimony of her life, however, is the legacy of her mission, which continues through her Cenacle family throughout the world—the Cenacle Sisters, Cenacle Auxiliaries and Cenacle Companions.
Sister Susan Arcaro and Sister Barbara Young continue her mission in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta through their ministry of prayer, retreats, spiritual direction and adult faith formation programs. Cenacle Auxiliaries and Cenacle Companions share in the sisters’ mission through their prayer, presence and participation in their ministry.
For information and registration for The Couderc Institute of Prayer, call the Cenacle Sisters at (706) 654-3460 (local Atlanta exchange).