The Society of Our Lady of the Cenacle was founded in 1826, at La Louvesc in France, near the tomb of St. John Francis Regis , the Jesuit apostle of the poor, by Jean-Pierre-Etienne Terme, a holy and zealous missionary priest of the Diocese of Viviers, and Marie-Victoire-Therese Couderc, a woman twenty years of age, but already mature, in courage, energy, and the living resources of faith. Desirous to attract pilgrims to the tomb of St. John Francis Regis , and induce them to there recollect themselves in solitude, prayer, and meditation, they resolved to open houses where women might follow the exercises of a retreat ; the first of these houses was opened at La Louvesc. Father Terme was not to see the full development of his work; he died in 1834, leaving his religious family to the direction of the Jesuit Fathers. Encouraged by episcopal authority, and then by Popes Gregory XVI , Pius IX, and Leo XIII, the last of whom definitely approved its constitutions, the new institute grew rapidly and soon counted houses in France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland. In England, the first house was opened at Manchester, in 1888. The year 1892 saw the first foundation in America, at New York.
The Society of Our Lady of the Cenacle honours particularly, and proposes to itself for its model, the retirement of the Blessed Virgin in the Cenacle, after the Ascension of our Lord, while the whole Church, expecting the Holy Ghost, "were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus " ( Acts 1:14 ). The religious of this society aim, first, at their own personal sanctification; secondly, at procuring the salvation and perfection of their neighbour. It is this twofold end that they endeavour to attain by the invisible apostolate of perpetual prayer, the recitation of the Divine Office, and the daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as by the exercise of exterior forms of apostolate, principally in providing for spiritual retreats and the teaching of Christian doctrine.
The houses of the society are open at any time to women of all classes wishing to make the Spiritual, that is, apply themselves for a few days to the consideration of the truths of faith, to recollection and prayer, either in order to make a choice for the disposition of their future life, or because they feel it necessary to regulate their lives in a more Christian manner. From its origin, the society has taken up the teaching of Christian doctrine as a powerful means of apostolate, and receives all persons who are desirous to learn the truths of faith, so as to dispose themselves for the reception of the sacraments, also all who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church, or who, after their return to God, seek to strengthen themselves in faith and piety. Other means used are the day's retreat, associations, etc.; in fact, all offices of spiritual charity proper to extend the kingdom of God in souls, according to the spirit of the Cenacle, are employed by the Society of Our Lady of the Cenacle, for the love of Christ and the Blessed Virgin.
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