Chef Folse to host retreat center’s ‘wine and dine’

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

From its establishment in November 2013 as the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center in Metairie (the former Cenacle Retreat House), the archdiocesan retreat ministry has benefitted from the philanthropy of a special angel wielding a mighty skillet.

Chef John Folse, a Catholic, has hosted a dinner gala for the retreat facility each year since 2014, with the proceeds going toward year-round operations of the center, which this year will sponsor 25 retreats, most for women and their families, and as well as host other days of reflections for parishes and schools.

Folse will team up with New Orleans chef Susan Spicer, the owner of Bayona, Mondo and Rosedale restaurants, for a “wine and dine” gala, “Once Upon a Time,” Aug. 3 at Chateau Golf and Country Club, 3600 Chateau Blvd., in Kenner. Cocktails will be served at 6:15 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:15.

“John is tremendously generous in giving back,” said Dr. Paul “Buddy” Ceasar, director of the retreat center. “What he consistently says is that God has been very good to him, and he feels more honored and privileged to be able to give something back. He’s very committed to the work of the retreat ministry, and he’s happy that he can help us.”

Beloved New Orleans chef Leah Chase also has been invited to attend. Nancy Parker, a news anchor at Fox 8 WVUE, will be the emcee.

Ceasar said the Archdiocese of New Orleans is so committed to the presence of the re-treat center that it subsidizes its operational budget, and the gala is a way of raising funds to defray those costs and sustain the retreat ministry.

In addition to a raffle and silent and live auctions, Folse also auctions off a special gift – dinner for a large group – going to the highest bidder.

Variety of retreats

As the Cenacle did for more than 50 years, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center focuses on “women and their families,” Ceasar said.

“We also do retreats for men and we offer days of prayer in which both men and women are invited,” Ceasar said. “The 25 retreats we sponsor every year are for women. We are also open to hosting different outside groups. Last week we had a men’s group for an overnight retreat, and we’ve had more parish staffs come out for days of prayer. We also have a couple of retreats especially for young women, and we’re having another event to encourage more young people to come.”

The center even has hosted gatherings for non-Catholics such as Methodist ministers and a Lutheran-Franciscan group.

To register for the gala, call Kim Gandolfi at 887-1420 or go to to register online. Tickets are $150 a person.

Peter Finney can be reached at

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