By Anne Lythgoe, OP
In September, the Dominican Sisters of Peace opened a new outreach ministry in the Marlyville-Fontainebleau neighbor of New Orleans, not far from St. Mary’s Dominican High School. The Peace Center is a former convenience store that has been transformed into a multipurpose facility. It will offer after-school programs, computer access, a children’s library and reading center, and spiritual respite..
Sister Therese Leckert, OP, a member of the congregation’s leadership team, said, “Oh happy day! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a dream become reality in this Peace Center. It is our hope that the center will be a sign of peace in a city and a world that is too often torn by violence.”
The Peace Center is an expression of “our Chapter Commitment to promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized especially women and children.” It is the first new ministry that the Dominican Sisters of Peace have begun since they came together five years ago as a new congregation.
Three Dominican Sisters of Peace, Patricia Thomas, OP, Suzanne Brauer, OP and Ceal Warner, OP will serve as staff. They will be a sign of the congregation’s commitment to New Orleans and provide outreach and needed services for neighborhood residents, along with offering prayer and spiritual support.
The sisters also hope to collaborate with St. Mary’s Dominican High School, which already has neighborhood outreach tutoring program as well as a Thanksgiving baskets and the Christmas Adopt-a-Family program. The high school has been educating girls since 1860.
Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas, president of St. Mary’s Dominican, helped in the development of the center, along with Sisters Theresa Fox, OP; Mary Daniel, OP; Noel Toomey, OP; Denise Bourgeois, OP; and Mary Ann Culotta, OP. Adrian Dominican Sisters Patty Harvat, OP; Mary Keefe, OP; and Judy Zynda, OP; and leaders from Xavier University Community Center also contributed ideas and creativity. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond worked with the congregation in shaping the vision for the project.
Paul Bonitatibus, a member of the congregation’s Economic Council has been extraordinarily generous to the Peace Center. Property owner, Michael Dezura, worked with the sisters to finish out the first floor plans according to their needs for outreach to the community.