Home » Features » Bringing Sisters Back Together: Loretto Begins Exhumation of Sisters Buried in Loretto Heights Cemetery

Bringing Sisters Back Together: Loretto Begins Exhumation of Sisters Buried in Loretto Heights Cemetery

Posted on July 6, 2022, by Loretto Community

A large white crucifix stands over a cluster of white gravestones surrounded by an iron fence.
Loretto Heights Cemetery
Photo by Ruth Routten CoL

Five years ago, with the announcement of the pending sale of the Loretto Heights campus, Loretto began prayerful and thoughtful research into how the Community could best ensure the perpetual care of the 62 Sisters of Loretto buried in the Loretto Heights Cemetery (LHC). Loretto is made up of a majority of Sisters now in their 80s and 90s. There will come a time when there won’t be any Sisters of Loretto in the Denver area to monitor the care of the Loretto Heights Cemetery. Consequently, in more than five years of consideration, the Loretto Community explored many different options in regard to Loretto Heights Cemetery. Among those considered were the following: LHC being owned by another cemetery and/or trying to find other resources that would care for LHC in perpetuity. Earlier this year Loretto’s Executive Committee made the difficult decision to move the bodies of the 62 Sisters buried at LHC to join the 22 Sisters of Loretto buried at Mt Olivet Catholic Cemetery. Mt. Olivet will soon house a total of 84 Sisters of Loretto all together as a witness to their faith and service. Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, the priest who asked for the Sisters of Loretto to come up from Santa Fe to teach the children of settlers coming to Denver after gold was discovered, is also buried at Mt. Olivet.

A rusted and dirt crusted rosary is displayed in outstretched hands.
Rosary belonging to Loretto Sister Aurelia Archambault
Photo by Ruth Routten CoL

The gravestones at LHC are being left behind and buried to remind us of that sacred ground and to honor what has been there for 110 years. The gravestones aren’t coming to Mt. Olivet as their material isn’t long lasting and would have to be replaced. The current owner of the LHC campus promises to make it into a one-third acre park memorializing the 62 Sisters previously buried there, the hundreds of Sisters who taught at Loretto Heights College and the lay professors and professionals who spent their entire careers educating young women.

The Loretto Heights Cemetery exhumation process began June 20, with Ruth Routten CoL, Mary Nelle Gage SL, Mt. Olivet staff and archaeologists from local universities and their students joining in prayer to honor the Loretto Heights College Class of ’62 and to ask God’s blessing on this endeavor.

Fourteen men and women pose in front of the Loretto Heights Cemetery, with the large white crucifix and gravestones visible in the background.
Loretto Community members, Mt. Olivet staff and archeologists and their students gather at Loretto Heights Cemetery to begin the exhumation.
Photo by Ruth Routten CoL
Six people carefully dig in a large space in a cemetery cleared by a backhoe. One woman stands on the side amidst white gravestones and observes.
Exhumation begins.
Photo by Ruth Routten CoL

Coverage of the exhumation process by local media:

LORETTO HEIGHTS NUNS: More than 60 nuns reburied in Wheat Ridge | FOX31 Denver (kdvr.com)

62 nuns exhumed from Loretto Heights project (canoncitydailyrecord.com)

As Loretto Heights transforms, the cemetery of its buried founders moves out of town – Denverite, the Denver site!

62 nuns find new resting place under Loretto Heights exhumation project – thedenverchannel.com

Buried Loretto Heights Sisters joining fellow nuns at Mt. Olivet in rare exhumation – Denver Catholic

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Roxanne Harrington on July 8, 2022 at 1:25 pm

    It has been a privilege as a neighbor to Loretto Heights to watch the careful work of this group of professionals. The care and respect make the move of the Sisters easier for those of us in the community who initially felt robbed of “our” Sisters. Every time I’ve stopped to visit and see the progress, I’ve met yet another woman who attended LH, or has been inspired by the campus. We shall miss it … its magnificent lawn, its grand trees, its place in our hearts and our history. I cannot help but feel this opportunity to watch this historic transition in the 70th year of my life is a gift teaching us all that change, while sometimes unnerving, is right and just in moving our lives (and after lives) forward. Thanks be to God, our Father Almighty! Thanks be to our Blessed Mother’s steadfast example. Peace be to all who facilitated this move. Peace be to all of us on the sidelines. Life is good.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on July 8, 2022 at 4:59 pm

      Thank you, Ms. Harrington, for sharing with us your beautiful comment.

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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!