Denver Loretto Center Celebrates Fitting ‘Goodbye’
“Loretto came to be and comes to be through the creative Spirit of God, whose grace worked powerfully in our founders and continues to work in the community as a whole and in each of its members.”From “I Am the Way,” Loretto’s Constitutions
More than 100 Loretto Community members, friends, family and clergy gathered to bid farewell to the Loretto Center Denver the evening of Dec. 8. The Center was built in 1963 and opened as Havern School for Learning Disabled Children in 1964. Its dual purpose was as a novitiate for Loretto postulants and novices in the Western United States. Now, 53 years later, the Loretto Center Denver will close to Loretto activities at the end of 2017. In a purchase arrangement, the building will continue as Havern School, whose leaders will fulfill their long-held dream of expanding both the physical plant and student enrollment.
The farewell festivities Dec. 8 began with a Mass in the Denver Center chapel celebrated by Father Martin Lally, a Loretto Co-member and longtime friend of the Community. Fathers Roland Freeman, Loretto Co-member Michael De Sciose and Ben Meyer — all close Loretto friends — concelebrated Mass.
In his homily, Father Lally said that the Sisters of Loretto began in 1812 to educate young children of Kentucky pioneer families. Education, he said, started with the 3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. At the close of the Center, those 3 R’s have become “remembering, reverencing and reflecting.
“December 8 is a very important day in the life of Loretto,” he continued. “It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, devoted to honoring the Virgin Mary,” said Father Lally. “We remember the unusual conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the young Mary. After hearing the astonishing news that she was to become the mother of the Son of God, Mary’s response was yes, showing both her courage and her faith in God. As Loretto remembers Mary on this feast day, we will reflect in gratitude and have faith that these buildings and beautiful grounds will continue on as we continue to revere this place.”
Next, Marlene Spero SL, who served many years as Center Coordinator, was invited to share her thoughts and memories. She joked that “after more than 53 years of life, love and ministry that have emanated from those who lived and worked at this center and who have touched the lives of countless individuals both near and far … five minutes is a brief time to reflect on the past and dream about the future!”
Sister Marlene said “gratitude” was a theme that had emerged among many as she prepared for her reflection talk. “Our deepest gratitude [is given] to Loretto’s congregational leaders who selected this beautiful piece of property in 1964 to provide religious formation to young women seeking to dedicate their lives to God in service of others.” She also gave thanks for the hundreds of Sisters who have lived and worked in the building, the generosity of the priests who have celebrated daily Eucharist with the Community, the many generous donors who have supported the Sisters, and for all the employees — past and present — who have kept the Center running smoothly for five decades.
As her talk drew to an end, Sister Marlene said, “We invite you to rejoice with us for all that has been in this sacred space and for all that is yet to come. God has walked with us every step of our journey. We praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
After Mass, Denise Ann Clifford SL, Loretto’s Director of Development, chanted a litany of residents and employees as all participants processed from room to room remembering the people, the work and activities they shared over the years. The procession ended in the dining room, and after guests found their places, Loretto Center employees were given a special blessing of gratitude for the energy, good will and commitment they had devoted to the Loretto Center. Afterward all enjoyed a lovely meal and a time of sharing stories and visiting.
It is safe to say the Loretto Center Denver received a “good and proper send-off” that evening.
Click here to read Marlene’s beautiful reflection.
Below is a short video of the Dec. 8 Denver Loretto Center Ritual celebration. The video was created by Neil Tucker, a Co-member-in-process, with the assistance of Loretto Archivist Eleanor Craig: