Sisters of Loretto
The Sisters of Loretto or the Loretto Community is a Catholic religious institute, which, according to their mission statement, "strive[s] to bring the healing Spirit of God into our world" and is committed "to improving the conditions of those who suffer from injustice, oppression, and deprivation of dignity". Based in the rural community of Nerinx, Kentucky, the organization has communities in 16 U.S. states and in the countries of Bolivia, Chile, China, Ghana, Pakistan and Peru.
The Sisters of Loretto were founded in 1812 by three women, Mary Rhodes, Ann Havern, and Christina Stuart, under the guidance of Rev. Charles Nerinckx in Kentucky, under the name of Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross. Their mission was to educate the poor children of the frontier. When the community was formed into a religious congregation, it was renamed the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross.
The work of the Sisters spread to the American Southwest during the 1870s, as the Sisters opened a Loretto Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (This school is the site of the famed staircase in the former school chapel, believed by some to have been built through supernatural intervention.) They also began an all-girls school in Montgomery, Al in 1873, called Loretto High.
The Sisters gained a reputation for educational innovation, as well as racial and religious tolerance, which created a strong interest in having their services. By the 1890s they had opened a girls' school in St. Paul, Kansas, in the Diocese of Wichita, and in 1899 were invited to work in the Diocese of Kansas City in Missouri, where they first started teaching in parochial schools of the city and opened a Loretto Academy in 1901. The Sisters also worked in Iowa and had a mission school for the children of the Osage nation in Oklahoma. The Sisters founded two colleges: Loretto Heights College in Denver (founded as an academy in 1891 and becoming a college in 1918) and Loretto College in Webster Groves, Missouri, in 1915.
In recent years, the institute has transformed itself into a larger Loretto Community, which includes the Loretto Sisters and members without religious vows, as well as volunteers. In June 2005, the Loretto Community dedicated the Colorado affordable-housing community of Mount Loretto, built in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Denver.
To conduct its charitable activities, the group holds NGO status with the United Nations. Strongly committed to social justice, the Loretto Community opposes nuclear weaponry and proliferation, and advocates for migrant workers and torture victims of oppressive regimes.
There are two tiers of membership: Sisters who take public vows, and co-members who do not. The Loretto Community operates the Loretto Earth Network, an environmentalist education and activism group. A Disarmament Committee lobbies against nuclear weapons, landmines, and militarism, and in favor of "develop[ing] a culture of peace" The Community also operates five facilities, (two in Nerinx, one in El Paso, Texas, and two in Colorado) which they offer for spiritual retreats.
The Loretto Community publishes Loretto Magazine, In Brief, a newsletter of the Education Committee, Loretto Earth News, and the Justice and Peace Newsletter.
- Sisters of Loretto. Loretto Work & Mission, accessed June 11, 2006.
- Loretto Community "Loretto History"
- National Park Service "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms"
- Loretto Community. Loretto Disarmament Committee. Accessed June 11, 2006.
- Loretto Community. Loretto Education Committee. Accessed June 11, 2006.
- Loretto Community. Publications and Justice Update. Both accessed June 11, 2006.