If you were wondering what was to become of the prime real estate in Metairie on AvronBlvd , look no further than the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese competed against developers looking to turn the largest tract of land in Metairie into upscale houses near the lake.  The archdiocese felt the land was worth6 million dollars to keep as a retreat, and they won the bid.

By Drew Broach

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The Cenacle Retreat House in Metairie, the 20-acre spirituality center that was schedule to close this summer, will be sold to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. The nuns order that has run it for 65 years, the Religious of Our Lady of Retreat in the Cenacle, still plan to move out, but the archdiocese said Thursday that the center will remain open “with a special ministry to women and their families.”

The purchase price is $6 million, archdiocese spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said.

“I am very pleased that we are able to purchase the property and keep the retreat house open for the women of the New Orleans area,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond. “We are sorry to see the sisters leave the archdiocese, but we are committed to maintaining a special focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of women and their families.”

Said Sr. Mary Sharon Riley, province councilor for the Cenacle Sisters: “Although it saddens us to leave the New Orleans area and its wonderful, gracious people, we are very pleased that the archdiocese will continue to minister at the Cenacle caring for the spiritual needs of the people of New Orleans and beyond.”

Cenacle aerial.jpeg.pngMetairie’s Cenacle Retreat House sits on 20 acres near Lake Pontchartrain.RE/MAX Commercial Brokers Inc.

Since it opened in 1958 at 5500 St. Mary Street, the Cenacle has functioned as a lakefront escape for thousands of people, mostly women, who visit its grounds of magnolia, live oak and white crepe myrtle trees for weekend retreats, daily programs and individual spiritual direction. The property includes a 31,897-square-foot retreat house with 52 guest rooms, a chapel, meeting hall, library, dining room and parlors, as well as the convent.

In October, the nuns blamed finances and a decline in their own numbers for their decision to close the Cenacle. They planned to sell the property, one of the largest tracts of open land in East Jefferson, by sealed bid.

Thursday’s announcement said scheduled retreats will continue through Aug. 17 and that the center’s prayer enrollment office will be open through October. “At that time, the archdiocese will be able to begin planning its ministry at the site,” the announcement said.

Article and pictures courtesy NOLA.com, Times-Picayune archive, and RE/MAX Commercial Brokers Inc.