Dominican Sisters leave ‘Founders Hall’ on Broadway

In spite of their stage-closing role as part of the St. Mary’s Dominican Sisters’ 157-year history in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, there were more smiles and memories than tears in front of stately Founders Hall at 580 Broadway St. June 28.

Dominican Sisters of Peace Judene Lillie and Denise Bourgeois were the final two sisters to live in the four-story former student-residence hall, dedicated in 1929 and recently purchased for future use by Loyola University New Orleans.

The sisters left July 1 for their community’s motherhouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Still have a strong presence
Although Sister Judene and Sister Denise will resume their ministry in Ohio, there still are about 15 Dominican Sisters of Peace serving in the archdiocese at St. Mary’s Dominican High School, the Peace Center, St. Anthony of Padua School, Notre Dame Seminary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Kenner, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Spirituality Center and in prison ministry.

“This is something to be proud of – what we accomplished,” said Sister Judene, who in February concluded many years of service with the Metropolitan Tribunal, which hears marriage cases.

Founders Hall, a Tudor Gothic building, served as a student residence hall, as a dormitory for high school and college students and at various times housed an assembly hall, classrooms and facilities for special education, reading and speech pathology programs.

Sister Denise, a math and calculus teacher for most of her religious life, taught classes in the hall. The Baton Rouge native is one of three blood sisters who became Dominican nuns.

“We’ve been working on this since September, so right now, we’re ready to go,” Sister Denise said with a laugh. “I think people are sad that we’re leaving because we’ve been on these premises since 1865. But we are going to a very good community.”

The St. Mary’s Dominican Sisters arrived in New Orleans in 1860 and started a school at St. John the Baptist Parish in January 1861. The property for what would become Dominican College on St. Charles Avenue was purchased in 1865.

Seven communities of Dominican sisters formed the Dominican Sisters of Peace in 2009.

Sister Judene spent the last several months organizing the community’s archives into dozens of boxes for shipment to Columbus.

“These are all the paper records since 1860,” Sister Judene said. “A lot of memorabilia has been given to (St. Mary’s Dominican High School). They plan to open up a heritage room to show their students things such photos and paintings.”

The school also was given various sacred objects from the second-floor chapel such as a crucifix, the Stations of the Cross and the tabernacle.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

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