Our Story

Our mission,
in accord with the mission of the universal church,
is directed toward awakening and deepening faith
with and for the people of our times.

We engage in this mission through our life,
which is prayer, community, and ministry.
Our ministry is that of retreats, spiritual direction, adult faith formation and contemplative presence.

To enter the Cenacle is to enter the heart.
It is to experience something of God.”

- Pope Paul VI

Intentionality of Space

If you are like we are, you have come to understand through life experience the importance of making space in your heart for goodness, for love, for God. From our beginnings, we longed to make interior space and we worked to provide a physical space for people to pray and to gather as Mary and the disciples did in the first Cenacle. You have likely thought about a person, virtue, or event that helped you make and keep that space for goodness, love, and God present and alive. We know people hunger for goodness and for transformation.  We also know it can be challenging to hold such a space alone. 

At the Cenacle we are with you, for this is our life!  Join with us as we join with you in prayer, in spiritual direction, individually directed retreats and other retreats and programs to support a dynamic faith life. 

We, as a community of women religious in the Catholic Church, are committed to accompanying you on your faith journey so that together with the Holy Spirit, we can contribute to the transformation of the world one heart at a time.

Credit: Arcabas

The mystery of the Cenacle expresses our mission in the Church and the significance of Mary in our spirituality.  It is the mystery of prayerful expectation and waiting in retreat by the first assembly of the Church, with Mary, directed to that outpouring of the Spirit which sent the apostles to the ends of the earth “clothed with power from on high” (Acts 1:8, Luke 24:49).  It is the inspiration for integrating the three dimensions of our mission: prayer, community and apostolic service.

Cenacle Constitutions #2

Our History

The Cenacle is rooted in the faith and efforts of Saint Thérèse Couderc and Father Stephen Terme. Father Terme began his journey of faith in the wake of the French Revolution and its destructive impact upon the faith and the religious formation of the people. As a parish priest and missionary, he helped people rediscover their faith and love of Jesus.

On one of his missions, he met a young woman who told him of her desire to enter religious life. She was Marie Victoire Couderc, who would become Mother Thérèse Couderc. Together they opened a hostel for women pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. John Francis Regins, SJ, in the small French village of Lalouvesc in 1826. With the help of God, providing safe accommodations for pilgrims and providing retreats in those accommodations, especially for women, lead to the foundation of dozens of Cenacle Retreat Houses around the world.

Mother Thérèse’s selfless love and desire to make Jesus known and loved led her to surrender herself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Her life and faith became the foundation for the Congregation of Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle, the Cenacle Sisters. She was declared a saint by the Church on May 10, 1970 and her feast is celebrated on September 26th.

1st Foundation at Lalouvesc, France by Fr. Stephen Terme and Sr. Thérèse Couderc
European Expansion begins in Lyon, France, and continues to Italy, England, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland
Mother Thérèse writes her Se Livrer – “To Surrender Oneself,” June 24th
Inauguration of the Aggregation (Auxiliaries) of Our Lady of the Cenacle
Death of Mother Thérèse at age 80
North American Expansion, beginning in New York and spreading throughout the United States and Canada
Inception of The Lamp, which became The Crusade of Prayer, which became The Cenacle Prayer Enrollment until January 2021
South American Expansion, beginning in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Expansion to Madagascar, beginning in Antananarivo
Expansion to Oceania, beginning in Auckland, New Zealand and Australia
Expansion to Asia, beginning in Manila/Quezon City, Philippines
Canonization of St. Thérèse Couderc, May 10th by Pope Paul VI
Revisioning of the Cenacle mission in a post-Vatican II era engenders broad experimentation beyond the walls of a traditional retreat center, beginning a renewal of the North American Cenacle narrative.
Inauguration of the Affiliates/Companions/Associates of Our Lady of the Cenacle in North America
Expansion to Africa, beginning with the intercongregational, international collaborative spirituality center in Ghana, followed by a Cenacle in Togo
Celebration of 125 years in North America
Further revisioning and examination of the essentials of the Cenacle charism give support to our call to be a contemplative presence, visible and accessible in our time.


The charism of the Cenacle Congregation flows from the first Cenacle in Jerusalem, the Upper Room where Jesus left a legacy of love and service at the Last Supper. After the Ascension, Mary, the Apostles and the women prayed and were blessed with the coming of the Holy Spirit in the same room.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit they found courage and hope to go forth and make Jesus known and loved. The Cenacle Congregation:

  • Proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Helps others to see God in all things
  • Teaches others how to pray

Our Cenacle Family

Cenacle Sisters are women of faith who share the call to make present the mystery of the first Cenacle in the world today. Although we come from diverse backgrounds and have various talents, by our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and through our life of prayer, community and ministry, we are united in the common mission of living and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each of us has to be rooted and grounded in prayer, because that’s where our ministry comes from.”

-Sister Lois Dideon, r.c.

Our Locations

Chicago, Illinois

Provincialate /
North American Headquarters

Atlanta, Georgia

Houston, Texas

Therese’s Well Intentional Virtual Community


New Jersey

New York


Get in Touch

Newsletter sign up

By entering your information below, you will be one of the first to know about upcoming programs and opportunities for spiritual growth and faith-sharing with others! We can’t wait to get to know you better!

For General Email inquiries

For General Information, Programs, Donations and Public Relations questions:

Mark Piper
Director for Ministry & Mission Advancement
Director Chicago Cenacle Retreat & Conference Center

For Information about Vocations, Cenacle Sisters, Auxiliaries and Cenacle Associates

Sr. Kathryn Madden, r.c.
Vocations Contact
The Cenacle Provincialate
513 W. Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614-6428

In need of prayer?