Significant Persons in Our History
Lebh Shomea began as a House of Prayer in June 1973. (To review the sequence of events that brought the Kenedy Ranch headquarters to this point in its history see Sarita Kenedy East.)
Initially, the property willed to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate by Sarita Kenedy East served as a novitiate. When the novitiate closed, a proposal was made to use the property as a House of Prayer. The House of Prayer proposal provided the Oblates with a convenient and obvious "religious purpose" for an otherwise huge empty facility. Thus, after the last class of novices made their vows in the summer of 1973, Father Hervé "Tom" Marcoux, OMI, took over as director of the fledgling enterprise and immediately took off around the country, trying to discover what other Houses of Prayer are/do. That summer, Brother Danna Gauthreaux, OMI, also joined the Oblate community at La Parra as treasurer and general overseer of the vast and complex physical plant. It was principally Tom Marcoux who came up with the name for the House of Prayer: “Lebh Shomea.” He was inspired by Solomon's response to the Lord: "Give your servant lebh shomea [a listening heart] so as to be able to discern" (1 Kings 3:9).
Tom Marcoux and Danna Gauthreaux opened the House of Prayer to any group or individual who came seeking spiritual renewal. They tried Charismatic Prayer Retreats, Cursillos, Marriage Encounters, A.A. and 12-Step Retreats, etc. Yet, nothing worked on a long-term basis. La Parra was too remote, too hard to find and too untamed for most city-dwellers. Moreover, Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley had their own renewal centers which they could barely fill. Why add another? Thus, within a few months Tom Marcoux came to the conclusion that this beautiful oasis surrounded by such a vast wilderness was not much good for anything except encountering God in silence and solitude; in other words, contemplation. And so it remains.
With the passage of time, a number of Core Members have come and gone. Three, however, remained and formed Lebh Shomea for over 40 years: Father Francis Kelly Nemeck, OMI, Sister Marie Theresa Coombs and Sister Maria Elizabeth Meister. Kelly joined Tom and Danna in November 1973 after a five-year stint in Canada and France. Marie Coombs arrived in March 1974. She was a Presentation Sister in temporary vows from Newfoundland, Canada. Maria Meister arrived in September 1976 from the Poor Clares in Omaha, Nebraska, via Zambia and Chicago. She was also in temporary vows. Each Sister discerned eventually an eremitical vocation, and in the early 1980’s they became canonically recognized hermits with a special association with the Missionary Oblates.
Kelly's health began to significantly deteriorate in late 2013, and he moved to Oblate Madonna Residence. Supporting increasing suffering with spiritual fortitude, he died there on September 11, 2014. May he rejoice in God's abiding love.
Maria's heath deteriorated and she moved to the Kingsville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where she died on September 12, 2014. May she rest in God's abiding love.