Exhibit, lectures to highlight Loretto order’s ministry in Colorado
By Julie Filby
Photo provided courtesy Loretto Sisters
What do the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Women’s Bean Project and St. Mary’s Academy have in common? They were all started by Sisters of Loretto.
Starting Sept. 16 the Loretto Community will highlight those entities—along with the many other nonprofits, schools and ministries they have helped start or founded since arriving in the Colorado territory in 1864—with an exhibit at Denver Central Library.
The exhibit continues the year-long jubilee celebration of the order founded on the Kentucky frontier in 1812.
“It’s important to realize the contributions religious women have made in this state and this city,” said Loretto Sister Lydia Pena, curator of the exhibit. “Not just the Loretto Sisters, but the contributions of all religious women.”
“Making a Difference in Colorado Since 1864” launches to the public with a reception from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16 and runs through Dec. 31. It will illustrate Loretto’s contributions to the state and surrounding area through more than 100 photographs, visual artwork, poetry, music, and memorabilia such as Loretto books and publications.
“I think people will be pleased and very pleasantly surprised to see the nonprofits we have founded,” said Sister Pena. “(The exhibit) is also a great way to promote Catholic education.”
At the invitation of Bishop Joseph Machebeuf and his successors, the Loretto Sisters have helped open 27 schools in Colorado including 10 that are still open today: Bishop Machebeuf High School, Blessed Sacrament, Good Shepherd and St. Vincent de Paul in Denver; All Souls and St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Havern Center for Exceptional Learners in Littleton, Holy Family High School in Broomfield, St. Joseph in Fort Collins and St. Mary High School in Colorado Springs.
A signature piece in the exhibit will be a replica of the first high school diploma conferred in the Colorado territory in 1875 by St. Mary’s Academy, a girls’ school established by the sisters in 1864.
Sisters of Loretto Exhibit
Title: “Making a Difference in Colorado Since 1864”
Where: Denver Central Library, 10 W. 14th Ave., Denver
When: Sept. 16-Dec. 31
Opening reception: 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 16
Guest speakers: 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Oct. 21, Nov. 4, Nov. 18
Cost: No cost
More information: www.lorettocommunity.org or call 303-783-0450
“The diploma was granted to a woman, Jesse Forshee, by Catholic nuns,” said Sister Pena. “She herself became a Sister of Loretto.”
Another signature piece will include images of a world renowned circular staircase. The wooden staircase, with two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support, was built in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1880 by a carpenter whose identity remains one of the area’s most prevalent mysteries.
“The staircase symbolizes the prayer life of the sisters,” Sister Pena explained.
Legend says a carpenter suddenly appeared on the last day of the sisters’ novena to St. Joseph, built the staircase “without one single nail,” then disappeared without pay.
The exhibit will focus on five main areas of the sisters’ history and accomplishments: Kentucky and Santa Fe, Schools Still in Existence, Global Loretto, Colorado Social Entrepreneurs: Peace and Justice; and Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives.
In addition there will be three presentations offered to the public: Oct. 21 award-winning author Margaret Coel will present “Denver in 1864”; Nov. 4, Colorado Historian Tom Noel and Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher will speak on “Sisters of Loretto in Kentucky, Santa Fe, Colorado and Wyoming”; and on Nov. 18, Loretto Sister Cathy Mueller, president of the Loretto community, will share “Global Loretto.”
Presentations will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and there is no charge to attend.
The Denver Central Library is located at 10 W. 14th Ave. in downtown Denver. The exhibit will be on Level 5, Western History Art Gallery. There is no cost to attend the exhibit or the opening reception Sept. 16. For more information, visit www.lorettocommunity.org or call 303-783-0450.