Alley of St. Joseph, Manresa House of Retreats, Convent, Louisiana

Manresa alley, view from levee

Manresa alley, view from levee

These 100-plus year-old oaks are part of St. Joseph alley, located across River Road from the main building at Manresa House of Retreats, just upriver from the parish business offices in Convent, LA. (Convent is the Parish seat of St. James Parish.) The alley was planted at about the time the buildings were constructed around 1830; the largest tree in this alley is approximately 22’ in circumference. The alley is especially notable for its wide center space and a palpable atmosphere of peace and quiet.

St. Joseph statue and alley, river end of alley

St. Joseph statue and alley, river end of alley

This is due in part because Manresa is the site of ongoing non-denominational retreats for men hosted by Jesuit priests.  The ambience of the old trees and contemplative silence of the retreat participants seems to create an atmosphere of introspection. I’ve made some of my favorite oak images under the limbs of this alley.

You may see men walking the grounds on retreat, where they observe silence and reflect on their lives for several days at a time. The alley is named after St. Joseph (husband of Mary mother of Jesus). A second, younger alley, less than 50 years old, is just a few hundred feet upriver from the older alley. Manresa is a private facility, but visitors can walk among the trees on the riverside of the grounds.

Detail from alley: silhouette oak and young oak alley

Detail from alley: silhouette oak and young oak alley

Manresa House of Retreats was built around 1830. Originally named Jefferson College after Thomas Jefferson, it was a nonsectarian institution of higher learning where, prior to the Civil War, many wealthy Louisiana planters’ sons enrolled to receive a classical education. The main building, with its Greek-revival design, survived the Civil War as a barracks for federal troops. The college was purchased in 1864 by Valcour Aime, estimated to be the wealthiest man in Louisiana at the time. He donated the property and buildings of Jefferson College to the Catholic Marist Fathers who again operated the facility as a college. In 1931, Jesuit priests took over the school and have maintained it since as a retreat facility.

Oaks in east row in fog

Oaks in east row in fog