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100 years ago…

Posted on September 22, 2023, by Christina Manweller

Loretto Academy in El Paso opened its doors

Sepia toned photo of a large crowd in front of the Loretto Academy school building in El Paso during its opening in 1923.
Above, opening day at Loretto Academy in 1923 is a grand affair. Read about Loretto Academy’s history in the spring 2019 issue of Loretto Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Loretto Archives

On the occasion of this important milestone, Mary E. “Buffy” Boesen SL writes:

It’s hard to believe that 100 years have gone by since Mother Praxedes’s dream of Loretto Academy in El Paso became a reality.

I am grateful to those who have gone before us, particularly Eileen Custy SL, Bernice Hys SL and Jane Clarke SL, who steered Loretto Academy in the 21st century — for almost 40% of the school’s history. I hope that the next generation continues the keen passion for education, honoring the Loretto Community’s core mission, ‘We work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.’ I pray that this great institution carries on for another 100 years.

Buffy Boesen SL served as president of Loretto Academy for more than 22 years, retiring in 2022.

A group of young students in their school uniforms stand outside on the Loretto Academy school steps to celebrate their school's 100-year anniversary. There are gold balloons above the crowd "2023" and 100th"
The younger students at Loretto Academy commemorate the school’s 100-year anniversary. Read about Loretto Academy’s history in the spring 2019 issue of Loretto Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Loretto Academy

Loretto sisters first arrived to teach and serve in China

Black and white photo of a nun at a chalkboard teaching to an attentive class of students.
Sister Clementia teaches English class in Hanyang, China.
Photo: Loretto Archives

In 1922 Father Edward Galvin, co-founder of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, visited Loretto Superior General Praxedes Carty to ask if Loretto sisters would be willing to teach in China. The next year, six sisters traveled to Hanyang and began their first assignment at St. Columban’s Mission where an embroidery school helped girls from the countryside earn money, learn a useful skill and gain a basic Christian education. From 1923 to 1952, 30 Loretto sisters would serve in China, teaching, running schools and providing religious education and training, in addition to responding to urgent crises. It was a challenging era for the Chinese — considerable suffering was caused by poverty, floods, disease and war. For the final two years of World War II, 15 Loretto sisters were interned with other religious. Then, with the government change in 1949, school enrollment dwindled as many families emigrated. At the same time, operating in China was becoming increasingly difficult. In 1952 the last U.S. sisters who had arrived 30 years before reluctantly left their beloved second home.

A black and white photo of a nun in a habit attending to a wounded soldier.
Stella Tompkins SL attends to a soldier. She served in China from 1923 to 1950. During those years, the Chinese endured civil war and an invasion by the Japanese.
Photo: Loretto Archives
Black and white photo showing two sisters in habits and two medical professionals in white coats traveling by boat to deliver water and medicine after a flood.
In summer 1931 massive flooding brought about extensive homelessness (30 million people), starvation and rampant disease. Justa Justyn SL and Mary Jane McDonald SL travel by boat to deliver water and medicine.
Photo: Loretto Archives
A sepia toned photo taken from the back of a classroom showing two rows of students at desks practicing embroidery and a nun instructing from her desk at the front of the room in between the two rows.
Justa Justyn SL oversees students at the embroidery school in Hanyang, China.
Photo: Loretto Archives

To read all the articles in the Fall 2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.


Christina Manweller

Editor of Loretto Magazine, Christina’s nonfiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. For many years she served as Director of Communications for a Colorado-based peace and justice organization. Her background also includes English and writing instruction at a local community college, digital and print design work, and photography. One of her joys is visiting the Loretto Motherhouse once or twice a year.
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