When Sister Joan Laplace returned to New Orleans after evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, she was struck by the destruction in the city. She saw debris piled up on one main boulevard—house shingles, air conditioners, and refrigerators amassed into a nearly 30-foot mound—and thought it was like seeing “the city piled up in a trash heap.” Then she got to the 25-acre property that her congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph, owned in the Filmore neighborhood in Gentilly, an area bordered to the north by Lake Pontchartrain and right next to New Orleans’s 1,300-acre public City Park. The Sisters had owned that land since the 1950s; it was home to their convent and provincial house, where those in the ministry lived and were trained. The once well-kept grounds were torn up, the building bedraggled; the first floor had flooded and was badly damaged. Ultimately, this was the beginning of the end for that provincial house, but it was also the beginning of a new project. Soon after Katrina, the Sisters would begin working on a way to give those 25 acres a second life, and help protect the city from future storms. [Image: courtesy WBAE] “To see the devastation, to […]

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