Bottom photo: Mass of Thanksgiving held at St. Charles College with Bishop Jarrell.
October 14, 2013 — The Jesuit community of St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, La., recently completed the renovation of its novitiate and spirituality center, as well as the addition of an assisted-living residence for retired and elderly Jesuits. St. Charles College has been at the center of Jesuit life and formation for novices, brothers and priests of the New Orleans Province for over 100 years.
Bishop Michael Jarrell of the Diocese of Lafayette celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and blessed the cornerstone at Grand Coteau on Sept. 29. After the Mass and blessing, attendees enjoyed lunch and guided tours of the new facilities led by the Jesuit novices.
"This gift of God's generosity is a seedbed where the church's ministers are nurtured, a house of prayer where people seek the Father's glory in all things and a compassionate home of respite and care," Bishop Jarrell said. “We ask that, led by the Spirit, those who live, work and visit here will continually fulfill their call so that Christ may always dwell in us."
Several Jesuits reflected on the significance of St. Charles College for the Society of Jesus. “When I sit in the novitiate chapel, memories just float back into me of the novice master making the 30-day retreat, of the men who were in the class with me,” said Jesuit Father Paul Deutsch, director of vocations for the New Orleans and Missouri Provinces. “All of these memories come back to me.”
“The history of my family, my Jesuit family, is here. It’s rooted here,” said Jesuit Brother Larry Huck, manager of the renovation project. “After I took vows, when I came back, this was my home. I know many of my classmates felt the same way. This is home.”
''This is our foothold in the South, right here in the middle of Acadiana. The whole idea was: Are we staying here or not?” said Michael Bourg, executive director for advancement of the New Orleans Province, explaining how the renovations represented a renewal of the Jesuits’ commitment to the area. The renovation was completed before the joining of the New Orleans and Missouri Provinces next July to create the new U.S. Central and Southern Province, which will span 15 states.
According to Bourg, the renovations were intended to make the 103-year-old building last another 100 years, and to "accentuate the classic features and preserve them but to bring the building up-to-date."
Bourg described the extensive renovations that were made to modernize the facilities. "All of the plumbing needed to be upgraded. It was literally dying on us. All of the electricity, too," he said. "So we totally ripped that out, and we had to put in two new elevators, to name just a few of the things that needed to be done."
In addition to the facility improvements, St. Charles College was properly fitted to accommodate the elderly Jesuits joining the 45 novices, brothers and priests already living at Grand Coteau.
"Some of them are coming full circle," Bourg said. "They started their novitiate here, and now they're coming to retire here."
“You’re just permeated with the whole spirituality of the Jesuits, of Ignatian spirituality. I think in my own life that has been indicated very much by my desire to always come back here,” said Jesuit Father Donald Bahlinger, chaplain at St. Charles College’s Jesuit Spirituality Center.