Loretto Community in Santa Fe to celebrate 200 years

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A Mass of thanksgiving to mark the 200th anniversary of the Sisters of Loretto and the 160th anniversary of the order’s arrival in Santa Fe, will take place at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 26, at St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, 131 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe.

In Socorro, the historic Mount Carmel School was once a Loretto school that graduated a number of historic figures such as Conrad N. Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotels chain, and Archbishop Robert Fortune Sanchez.

Monsignor Jerome Martinez y Alire will be the main presider at the 160th anniversary event. The homily will be given by Father Martin Lally, a Loretto Co-Member and pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora, Colo. Former Loretto students and friends of Loretto are being invited to take part in the Liturgy. All are welcome to attend the Mass and a book signing will follow in the Cathedral Basilica’s Father Crispin Hall.

Among those at the signing will be Loretto historian and longtime author Sister Patricia Jean Manion, SL, who taught at Loretto Academy in Santa Fe in the early 1950s and also resided there from 2000 to 2007 while she wrote a book on Loretto’s experiences in China. P.J., as she is familiarly known, is one of 19 Loretto Community members who penned the book to be featured at the book signing, “A Century of Change 1912-2012: Loretto’s Second Century.” The work highlights Loretto’s growth and development in following the Gospel teachings in the past century. It will be available for purchase at the event for $25.

The congregation of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross is one of the first religious communities of women founded in the United States. It was founded on the Kentucky frontier on April 25, 1812, by three young women – Sisters Mary Rhodes, Ann Havern and Christina Stuart – with the help of their Catholic missionary pastor from Belgium, Father Charles Nerinckx. From this beginning, the Loretto charisma of loving service, rooted in devotion to Jesus on the cross and Mary at the foot of the cross, has shaped and formed this community and keeps it alive today.

On Sept. 26, 1852, 40 years after the congregation’s founding and four years after the United States annexed the Southwest Territory, Loretto came to Santa Fe. Six Sisters of Loretto responded to the appeal of Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy to work with the Spanish-speaking children of Santa Fe. On the river trip from St. Louis to Independence, Mo., where the Santa Fe Trail began, at least three of the six sisters contracted cholera; one died and a second was too ill to continue the journey. Four arrived by wagon train at their destination two months later. In 1853, the sisters opened Loretto Academy of Our Lady of Light, which would flourish for more than a century and served as a nucleus from which Loretto spread through New Mexico, Colorado (1864), Texas (1879) and Arizona (1899).

In addition to Loretto Academy of Our Lady of Light in Santa Fe, other Loretto schools were established in Taos (1863), Mora (1864), Albuquerque (1866), West Las Vegas (1869), Las Cruces (1870), Bernalillo (1875), Socorro (1879) and East Las Vegas (1912). The Loretto sisters also lived and ministered in New Mexico in Tierra Amarilla, Milan, Grants, Questa, El Rito, Chama, Tome, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Jemez Springs and Zuni. During the 160 years that the Sisters of Loretto have been in New Mexico, they have contributed greatly to the education, history and pioneer spirit of the “Land of Enchantment.”

The same Holy Spirit who inspired and guided the founders of the Sisters of Loretto guides today’s congregation, now known as the Loretto Community. Members live by their constitution’s dictate: “We work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.” Loretto Community members, found today ministering in more than 30 states and in nine foreign countries, teach, nurse, care for the elderly, lobby, minister in hospitals, provide spiritual direction and counseling, resettle refugees, staff parishes, work to halt the country’s nuclear weapons build-up, work with the rural poor and minister to the physically and mentally challenged. The Loretto Community is made up of 208 sisters and 211 co-members, who through mutual commitment belong to the Loretto Community through a sharing of spirit and values and who participate in activities that further the Loretto mission.

Donations in honor of the Loretto Community 200th anniversary may be sent to the Loretto Development Office, 4000 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80123-1308, or by clicking on “Give to Loretto” on the right-hand column of the Loretto website, www.lorettocommunity.org.