Louisiana Theresian History

When Nancy Colby lived in Houston in the late 1970’s, she attended a class with several women who seemed to be very well informed about Vatican II.  Nancy asked how they knew so much and was told that they were studying Vactican II in their Theresian community.  Both Theresian communities in Houston were full at that time so Nancy was instrumental in starting the third community in Houston before moving back to Lafayette.

Nancy moved to Lafayette 1977.  Msgr. Elwood C. Voss began writing to Nancy constantly encouraging her to start Theresians in this area. After several years of telling him that she was new and didn’t know enough people, Nancy finally did gather a group of interested women in 1982. The organizational meeting took place on June 3, 1982, with six members.  Their first program meeting was held in the home of Nancy Colby on August 24, 1982.  Fr. Jay Voorhies spoke on Marian prayer.  Theresians I was finally chartered on November 4, 1983 with 12 members.

Theresians II was chartered in 1984 and a third community was also chartered in the mid 1980’s. These three communities hosted a regional conference in October 1987 at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau. The speaker was a Canadian priest who was in Lafayette at the time, Fr. Gabot. From this conference two new groups were formed. Theresians in New Iberia and Theresians IV in Lafayette.

As Theresians grew names were chosen by each community to replace the cumbersome number designations, using the Houston communities as example.

  • Theresians I became Genesis (1983)
  • Theresians II became Open Heart (1984)
  • Theresians III (disbanded) Regional Conference 1987
  • Theresians – New Iberia became Seraphim (1989- now disbanded)
  • Theresians IV became Serviam (1989)

At this time, there were three Lafayette communities and one New Iberia community which allowed for easy communication.

National Board president was Patsy Martin (Houston) whose sister lived in Lafayette. She visited occasionally and in fact chartered both Seraphim and Serviam, since the National president chartered all communities.

As the number of Theresians grew, it became harder and harder to monitor the progress of each community. Consequently, a regional director was selected so the national President didn’t have to travel so much. The Acadiana District's Regional Director was Sr. Mary Dennison r.c. of the Cenacle in Houston.

Additionally, the position of District Representative was created which provided someone to visit local communities and act as a liaison in communicating with all the groups. Rita Slate was the first District Representative. As a result of continued growth, it became impossible for one person to visit all the Lafayette communities in one year. Mary Toce became the second District Representative. She and Rita shared the responsibility of visiting and communicating with all the communities.

In 1993 to create a better communication system, the idea of having each community represented at a few meetings a year was born. This District Team concept was pioneered in Lafayette and was the prototype for the rest of the United States.

The first year, 1994, was a learning experience led by Shirley Bourdier, the first District Team Leader. The meetings were held in Paula Hebert’s living room and didn’t really have any other official office. Acadiana District’s first Call to Serve was held at the end of the first year.

Judy Corne was the second District Team Leader. At the end of this second year, job descriptions were created. Additionally, the three year staggered term system for community representatives was implemented, which were assigned by drawing straws to determine which representative would serve 1, 2, or 3 year terms. Not everyone could serve three years so there were some glitches at the beginning. However, this rotation allowed for at least half of the team to be experienced and a resource for the new community district representatives.

Pat Low was the third District Team Leader in 1996. Since the group had grown to about 17 communities Pat suggested meeting at Crossroads Bookstore. This was a godsend, because space was critical. The group eventually out grew Crossroads. Since Shirley Bourdier worked at St. Mary’s and many Theresians were involved there, arrangements were made to hold the District meetings at St. Mary’s Church on Doucet Road where they were held on the third Tuesday of the month.

By 2010, the Acadiana District had grown to 32 communities with several in formation.  To return to smaller more intimate groups it was discerned in August 2010, with Sr. Pat Burke facilitating the meeting, to split into four different districts.  So, in August 2011, the following districts were created:   Fleur de Lis District of SW Louisiana, Roses District of Acadiana, Living Spirit District of Acadiana and Live Oak District of Acadiana