For 100 years, St. Charles College has been the spiritual home to the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province. Expanding its welcome to more novices, to senior Jesuits, and to retreatants, the college enters its second century with an enhanced mission. This sacred place continues to provide a peaceful setting and a sure foundation for lay partners and friends, ensuring that Ignatian spirituality continues to flourish.
Mindful of St. Charles College's history and hopeful for its vibrant future, the Jesuits are deeply grateful to those friends who will make it possible to preserve this cornerstone of the Province.
St. Charles College dates back to the 19th century:
1837 – Groundbreaking: In 1835, the Bishop of New Orleans asked the Jesuits of the Paris Province to establish a school for young men in Louisiana. On July 31, 1837 – the feast of St. Ignatius – ground was broken for St. Charles College, which remained a boarding and day school for boys for nearly 90 years.
1907 – Tragedy: The College endured two fires early in the 20th century, as chronicled in The Opelousas Herald:
"Many thought that this calamity would seal the fate of the College. But with indomitable courage and determination to see a greater St. Charles rise from the ashes of the old, the Fathers set about planning the erection of the new College."
1909 – Rebirth: The cornerstone of the new College building was laid on March 23, 1909. Construction of this architectural gem was completed in October, 1909.
1921 – From Boarding School to Novitiate: When the Jesuit Novitiate, then located in Macon, Georgia, burned to the ground in 1921, it was transferred to St. Charles College.
Post-Vatican II – A Building in Service to a Changing Church: After World War II, the Province was blessed with increasing numbers of vocations. In 1964, a new wing was added, including a chapel designed to accommodate post-Vatican II liturgical directives. The Jesuit Spirituality Center at St. Charles College was established in 1972, to bring the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality into the modern world.
Since the early 20th century, Jesuits of the New Orleans Province have entered the Society of Jesus through the shaded path of pines leading to St. Charles College, the Novitiate's home, in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
The College recently expanded its welcome to the Missouri Province through the joint St. Stanislaus Kostka Novitiate, making it the spiritual home for men from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains.
In addition to housing novices, it has been home to the Jesuit Spirituality Center since the 1970s. The Center offers a quiet environment for directed retreats for the laity, religious and clergy.
Soon, the College will take on a new mission, when the senior Jesuits of Ignatius Residence relocate to the building's east wing, which will be converted to an assisted living facility.
With a bow to the past, the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province celebrate the centennial of the reconstruction of St. Charles College after it was devasted in a 1907 fire. Much like their brethren in 1909, the Jesuits eargerly embark on a new century of service to God's people within the College's walls.
Heeding the advice of achitects, the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province seek to update this architectural gem, rather than replace it, which would be both wasteful and expensive.
In order to meet current safety codes and handle modern loads, the building requires:
- Safeguards: Century-old wiring and antiquated fire detection and alarm mechanisms require updating; stairwells need enclosing; and a fire sprinkler system needs to be installed. Two new elevators are needed to accommodate guests and residents with disabilities.
- Fortification: Brick façade and roof repairs are needed to preserve the building's exterior, while drainage improvements will redirect water flow away from the building.
- Stewardship: Reglazing the original windows will prevent hot and cold air leaks, and a zone-specific heating and cooling system will replace the inefficient window air conditioning units. The antiquated plumbing system also requires updating.
Interior upgrades will create a more inviting and prayerful space for all who come to St. Charles College to study and pray for decades to come.
It will be home to Jesuits in every stage of ministry, from first-year noivces discerning vocations to elder Jesuits who come to rest and pray after decades of service. The College will also continue to house the Jesuit Spirituality Center, which offers an array of programs and directed retreats for clergy, religious, and laity.
The following improvements will ensure that St. Charles College continues to provide a peaceful and sacred space for all who seek to discern God's call within its historic halls:
- Assisted living accommodations and new elevators will allow the elder Jesuits of Ignatius Residence to join the St. Charles College community, elminating the need for hurricane evacuations from New Orleans and providing the opportunity for elder brethren to guide retreats, minister the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and share in the formation of new Jesuits.
- New bedrooms will be added and common restroom facillities will be updated to accommodate larger numbers of novices, providing simple and appropriate study and prayer space for men learning to live as Companions of Jesus.
- Rooms for retreatants will be outfitted with individual baths, replacing outmoded dormitory-style facilities that currently limit the number of retreatants the Jesuit Spirituality Center can accommodate.
What is a province?
On a worldwide basis, Jesuits are organized into geographic provinces, primarily for training young Jesuits or "novices," caring for elderly Jesuits, and missioning men to schools, parishes, retreat houses and other ministries. The various provinces in the United States make up the "US Assistancy." The Assistancy is headquartered in Washington, DC.
Who leads a province?
Each province is governed by a Provincial Superior, who is appinted by the Superior General in Rome. Rev. Mark A. Lewis, S.J. is the current Provincial of the New Orleans Province.
What are the Provincial's responsibilities?
The Provincial assigns or "missions" individual Jesuits. He is also responsible for the well-being of Jesuits and the fiscal well-being of Jesuit facilities such as the Novitiate at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and Ignatius Residence, the retirement home for Jesuits, in New Orleans.
How big is the New Orleans Province?
The New Orleans Province is comprised ot ten states in the southern and southwestern United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. The Jesuits within the New Orleans Province are sometimes referred to as "The Southern Jesuits."
What is a Novitiate?
The first two years of a Jesuit's life are spent in a program known as the novitiate. The four, fundamental goals during this time are verification of one's vocation, a more intimate relationship with the Lord, growth in authentic self knowledge and an increasing love for the Society of Jesus. At the end of this two-year period of prayer, work and study, the novice pronounces perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience either as a brother or as a scholastic who will prepare for priestly ordination.
How many Jesuits are there?
Worldwide, there are some 21,000 men serving on six continents. (None in Antarctica!) Within the New Orleans Province, there are 211 Jesuits serving in two institutions of higher education, five high schools, eight parishes, and five retreat houses. The Jesuits of the New Orleans Province include over 40 men in training and a dedicated core of 15 Jesuits serving in nine foreign countries spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How are province operations funded?
Province operations depend upon the spiritual and financial generosity of friends and benefactors.