“With Jesus at its heart, the Peace Center strives to build peace, preach, and be peace with residents of the surrounding area.”
In the summer of 2013, the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace invited all the Sisters in the Congregation to pray about new ways to be present in the city of New Orleans. They also appealed to the members of the Community for Sisters who might want to be a part of any ministry was was created. Women of the Dominican Order had ministered in the Crescent City since 1860, but many Sisters who left the city to flee Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had not returned. Our diminishing numbers caused us to question if we could maintain a presence in New Orleans, but the merger of seven (now eight) Dominican Congregations to create Peace in 2009 gave us hope.
Seven Sisters came forward and participated in a week of prayer, discussion, and discernment in January of 2014. In the end, three Sisters accepted the invitation to live together in New Orleans and create a neighborhood outreach center named the Peace Center.
In order to truly serve the neighborhood, the Sisters felt they needed to live there, so that desire guided the search for a location. Sisters Ceal Warner, Pat Thomas, and Suzanne Brauer moved into the apartments on the second floor of 2837 Broadway Street on August 8, 2014, and were ready to open the doors of the center on the first floor on September 28.
They might have had some sense of how they could minister to the neighborhood through the center, but the learning curve would be steep. Ceal and Pat were Yankees, so Suzanne, a native New Orleanian, acted as our guide. She was not alone in her task of helping us understand the culture. The other Sisters in the area had a lot of influence on our appreciation for all things N’Awlins! But it was a real issue to come to an appreciation of the city’s culture and the struggles of its African-American residents.
The Congregation had conducted a community survey in 2013 so we had a good idea of what the Gert Town residents felt they needed. We remained present to our neighbors, watched and listened, and began to make plans.
The Peace Center is located in Gert Town, an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Even in 2014, nine years after the storm, there were still homes with the markings from FEMA that indicated the date of inspection, whether any bodies had been discovered and a large X showing the inspection was completed. We had come into a neighborhood where many families had evacuated and some members did not return. Many homes were just abandoned. The senior adults were survivors; the children we worked with had not been born at the time of Katrina. The young adults in the gap had seen how the city had treated their families and were not motivated or inspired to give back. All three groups demanded our attention.
That is where we began – and those are still the neighbors that we serve today.
Sr. Suzanne Brauer, OP,
A native of New Orleans, Sr. Suzanne has served in the ministries of parish catechesis, area catechesis, pastoral ministry, treasurer of her religious congregation, and leadership.
She has a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University (New Orleans) a Master of Science in Administration from Notre Dame and a Master of Arts in Theology with a concentration in Black Spirituality. She is also trained as a spiritual director.
Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Sr. Pat is a transplant from Newark, OH, who has learned to fit in well in our city. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies with a concentration in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology, and has completed course work for a Master of Divinity.
Sr. Pat has served in campus ministry, parish school administration, and other educational ministries in New York, Ohio, and Connecticut.
After graduating from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Vallerie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Social Work from Southern University.
A native New Orleanian, Vallerie has used her education to serve many populations throughout the Greater New Orleans area. She also worked as a diversity director or consultant and with special needs populations. Vallerie served as a member of the Peace Center advisory council, including as chair.
A life-long Catholic, Vallerie answered God’s call when she recently became a Dominican Associate in August 2023.
We are beyond grateful for the advice, counsel, and assistance of these local residents and professionals as we work to create peace in our neighborhood.
The Peace Center Advisory Council meets quarterly.