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Jubilarians celebrate at the Motherhouse

Posted on November 5, 2019, by Loretto Community

Loretto celebrated three important anniversaries at the Motherhouse this year: two 75-year jubilees and one 80th.

From left: Mary Katherine Hammett SL celebrates her 75-year jubilee with family; Kathleen Tighe SL celebrates her 75-year jubilee with family; Liz Perez SL presents a cake to Mary Genevieve Cavanaugh SL in celebration of her 80-year jubilee.


Mary Genevieve Cavanaugh SL

80 years of service

By Eleanor Craig SL

A recent visit to Sister Genevieve Cavanaugh’s bedroom confirmed that this 98-year-old is still the mistress of quick quips. Asked how she enjoyed her anniversary, she grinned, “Which one?” She feigned surprise at the reminder that she celebrated 80 years in April.

We reviewed together the dozen photos in Genevieve’s personnel file. She looked closely at each photograph, then looked out the window and sighed, smiling as if to herself. She said several times, “Oh my … oh my! … such sweet memories!” Of the photos, my favorite was Genevieve as a curly-haired cowgirl in a hat, circa 1990. Her favorite was an earnest, formal picture of herself in the “M” veil in 1948, 70 years ago!

Genevieve has been a “Loretto girl” even longer than that. As a six-year-old, she entered first grade at Loretto Academy on 39th and Roanoke in Kansas City. That was 1926 and she continued through 12th grade at the Academy. An only child, she nevertheless left her parents for Loretto Motherhouse immediately after graduating from high school. She had been known as Jeanne Frances Cavanaugh. Received into the Loretto community on April 25, 1939 she has lived 80 years as Sister Mary Genevieve.

“It doesn’t seem that long,” she remarks. Turning her face to the blue sky beyond her window, Genevieve seems to muse over the length of time for a moment. On her rolling tray is a copy of Teillard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man, with a bookmark about 100 pages in. On her desk several books are stacked, the top one a volume on mortality. Genevieve has said of herself, “My inherent nature desires quiet, solitude and the pursuit of the intellectual.” When I first entered her room, she had been watching TV coverage of the Democratic presidential candidates. “It is just so stimulating,” she said. “Yes, stimulating is the right word. I enjoy the stimulation.”

(Editor’s note: Mary Genevieve passed away at the Motherhouse Infirmary on August 9, three months after her 80-year anniversary.)


Mary Katherine Hammett SL

75 years of service

By Eleanor Craig SL and Johnny Hammett

Sister Mary Katherine Hammett’s niece, Jane Hammett from Missoula, Mont., visited Loretto Motherhouse with several other nieces, nephews and spouses; they came for the days of celebration of Mary Katherine’s 75th Jubilee. Jane is the daughter of Mary Katherine’s younger brother, John “Johnny” Hammett, who wasn’t able to travel from Kalispell, Mont. Jane later sent some family remembrances from Johnny and his wife, Lois, who were eager to congratulate “MK” on her jubilee and to let her know how proud they are of her.

The following was written by her brother Johnny:

MK grew up in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. Her grandparents on both sides were Irish immigrants. She was the oldest of the six children of Katherine and Walter, with four younger brothers and a sister. All have passed on except for MK and her younger brother, Johnny, third born in the family.

Family life with six children, two parents and one bathroom was pretty much routine. Music has always been a huge part of MK’s life. The whole family was very musical. Dad played the violin and four of her siblings all played a musical instrument. Her baby brother James was an avid tap dancer. MK played the organ and piano. She was very active in the parish, playing the organ while her brothers served mass at Saint Joseph’s Church.

MK has told us that she knew in second grade that she wanted to become a nun because she was so inspired by her teacher who was a nun at St. Joseph’s School and Church in Fort Collins. At 17 years of age MK made the first step in fulfilling her dream to become a Sister of Loretto. The family all piled into the car and drove to Denver and put her on the train bound for Nerinx, Ky., where she began her studies and commitment to the Lord and the Sisters of Loretto. She went on to teach, especially music and religious education, in Colorado, Missouri, Texas and California.

MK grew to be a fabulous driver and traveler. She made many road trips solo to visit family and friends in Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana while living in Texas and California. Fiercely independent and resilient, she enjoyed cruising solo on the freeways through Death Valley and navigating big-city traffic.

Following her retirement from her parish duties in California, MK worked for four years for a pipe company in administration. The other employees at the plant didn’t know that she was a nun and she didn’t know what their religious backgrounds were but she said they sure used Jesus’ name a lot.

During one of her last summer visits to northwest Montana we were out having lunch when our waiter appeared with an obscene word pasted across the front of his T-shirt. MK’s brother Johnny and wife Lois were appalled! MK in her smooth, calming, and non-judgmental voice simply stated, “This could be this man’s only shirt.”

We all have utmost respect for MK, her wisdom, strength, determination and her peaceful loving soul. We are eternally grateful for all she has taught us and shared with us. We all love her for her duty to the Lord and the Sisters of Loretto.


Kathleen Tighe SL

75 years of service

By Eleanor Craig SL

Celebrating the anniversary of one’s being received into the Loretto Community is an event that stirs the emotions and the memories of the past. Kathleen Tighe had this experience on April 25 this year, marking her 75th anniversary as a Sister of Loretto. When asked about her thoughts and feelings on this special day, she began immediately and with great animation. What follows are her words shared with interviewers Delores Kincaide and me.

What were your emotions, thoughts, and memories as you anticipated your 75th anniversary on April 25, 2019?

Getting ready, I was very excited. I sent my six nephews an invitation in February, telling them I would like them to come to the celebration because I am the last child of the Alice and Eugene Tighe family. And they took me seriously and did come. That was very special to me.

One of my great nephews brought his two children, including a girl who is six who has my sister Alice Eugene’s talent in music. [On the afternoon of April 25] this little girl, Morgan, played at the piano and sang “Amazing Grace” — playing with both hands and using the pedals. Her brother, Kevin, played the violin — he is four-and-a-half.

So family was such a good part of my jubilee. Then my Loretto Community Group — the Northern California group — came and also people from our Berkeley neighborhood community and church. And the women here at the Motherhouse were wonderful.

Multiple groups like those who celebrated with me have made up the whole of my life, for all of my life. God has taught me how to relate well to diverse groups. I told everyone gathered for the celebration that I don’t remember one day in all my 75 years when I thought I’d made a mistake in joining Loretto.

There were tough times: I was made principal of Nerinx Hall. I was so green I was in shock for a year: I had never even written a check in my life! After two years, I was sent to Kansas City and made principal. And Sister Edwardine there told me that we were going to build a new school and I was going to raise money and work with the architects and design the building!

I had graduated from high school when I was 16. We had moved to California and I was skipped up a year because my sister, Sister Ann Virginia, was a teacher in the school and they didn’t want her to teach me. So I was very young when I finished high school. All the while as we’d go visit my sisters who were Sisters, I’d be asked “Are you going to be a nun too?,” and I always said “No.” But then I decided during senior retreat that I would go and my parents urged me to go, saying “We have trained you girls to make good decisions in your lives; this decision is yours and it is up to you to make the right decision now.” So I wrote Mother Edwarda and said, “Guess what! Number five of the Tighes wants to join!” There is a blue spruce on the Motherhouse grounds, out by the Nerinckx log cabin in honor of the five Tighes.

I’m so grateful for Loretto. I’ve grown so much with Loretto. I’ve lived with marvelous women, the ones who led and the ones who taught and the ones who did the laundry. They have all been wonderful.


Anna Koop SL

50 years of service

Anna Koop’s process of becoming a Sister of Loretto evolved slowly as she spent time with sisters and got to know the community in the 1960s. She remembers Maureen McCormack SL saying, “You seem to know a lot of nuns, have you thought of joining?” “I was still resisting,” Anna says. Resisting, but curious, she attended a Loretto gathering and was impressed by the meetings and the community. “I was hooked,” she recalls.

She was good friends with Sue Kenney, who entered the order in March 1969. Anna entered several months later, in October, when she was 31 years old. Upon return to Denver, following her canonical year in Kentucky, she established her life-long habit of working four days a week, giving two days to community, and one day to prayer and reflection.

For many years, Anna worked at Catholic Charities, where she advocated for affordable housing. She says, “I decided if I was concerned about housing I should provide some.” She spent a sabbatical year in Santa Fe learning about the Catholic Worker movement, returning to Denver determined to help start a Worker House.

Denver’s Catholic Worker House launched in July 1978. “I lived in that house for 38 years,” Anna says. “Then it burned.” A fire of unknown origin destroyed the house in 2016. Support from volunteers and donors led to the purchase of a new home, which was renovated then opened this year. “We are very grateful for all of the people who have made this house possible,” Anna says.

Along with Jennifer Haines, who also has been closely involved with the Denver Catholic Worker House from the beginning, Anna sees herself retiring from responsibility for the house before long, passing on the work to a fresh crew of volunteers.

“Loretto,” Anna says, “has been very inspiring for me — bright, bright women doing very good things. … I feel very blessed to have found Loretto and that they accepted me.”


Sue Kenney CoL

50 combined years of service

Loretto entered my life in Pueblo, Colo., where three Sisters of Loretto began a mission and I was an Extension Volunteer. This was within the diocese of co-member Bishop Charles Buswell and at the time of the beginning of Vatican II. My life was changed by the influence of these people and the exciting times within the Church.

The connections with, and influence of, Loretto continued upon my move to Denver. While working at Catholic Charities, my friend Anna Koop and I joined Loretto. As a vowed member for 25 years and a co-member for 25, I have spent the years in social work, eventually with Co-member Jean East beginning Project WISE, a non-profit emphasizing the empowerment of women with low incomes, focusing on individual and social change. In recent years, I have worked with students at the Denver University Graduate School of Social Work.

I am rich with memories of my life in Loretto, working for justice in a community of faith, sharing times both happy and sad. Currently, I am enjoying the challenge of being on the Community Forum, listening, planning and trusting in the Spirit as, like others, Loretto rides the tide of change. Thank you, Loretto, for the lifetime of treasured years together.

Co-members celebrating 25 years

Donna Doyle CoL
My life began in Mobile, Ala., January 10, 1930. In 1946, I went to the Loretto Novitiate in Kentucky. I took vows on December 8, 1948. At that point I began teaching, which continued for 49 years. In 1965, I felt that I had to leave the order and all the wonderful people with whom I had been for those 19 years. I have felt more and more love, appreciation, and admiration for the Sisters of Loretto as the years go by. Thank you Loretto for all you have helped me to learn and to become.

Ruth Fitzpatrick CoL
Ruth’s son John shares, “Through her words and deeds, she taught her children to speak out against injustice and stand up for what we believe to be morally right. … She strongly believed in giving voice to the poor and oppressed.” Ruth lived in and visited many countries, including in Latin America, and was a committed supporter of Central American refugees. For many years, she led the Women’s Ordination Conference. Ruth loved creating art, especially through sculpture and painting. She is well cared for at a lovely facility in Fairfax, Va. Her family appreciates Loretto’s prayers and visits.

Lillian Moskeland CoL
I was born in Mexico City to Jim Bruce and Dolores Novoa Roumagnac. They loved and modeled social justice for me and my siblings as they encouraged us to think for ourselves. Today, I serve in social justice for my church community. I thank Loretto for the model to serve. I graduated from Holy Family High School in 1959; spent two years at Loretto Heights; went to France for six months; returned to Seattle U for my BA in Romance Languages; started my master’s at University of Washington; and, finally, my MLA in Shreveport, La. in 2002. John and I had three children: premature twins died shortly after birth. My daughter, Andrea and her husband Vince Cobb have given us four loving, creative grandchildren. I taught for 30 years: grade school, kindergarten, high school and finally university. Students were my joy of teaching and many are now friends.

Karla Onick CoL
I was drawn to Loretto because of their love and outlook on the world. To me, they exemplified what life as a Christian truly meant. In 1983, I was hired to teach first grade at Loretto Academy. I have difficulty finding the words to describe being a part of that school. As I got to know more of the sisters, I felt more love, tolerance, and acceptance than I had ever felt. I feel that all that I have learned as a co-member has enabled me to spread the Loretto values throughout my career with teachers, staff, students, and parents by setting an example of tolerance, justice, and peace. I retired two years ago, and I am now serving on the Loretto Academy Board of Trustees. Once again, I am honored to be a part of this exceptional organization, and I thank God for leading me to Sr. Pat, Sr. Katherine, and Sam in 1978, and for giving me the opportunity to become a co-member 25 years ago.

Paulette Peterson CoL
Paulette Peterson recently joined Loretto’s leadership team as a member of the Forum and as a board member of the new 501c organization, Loretto Link. After graduating from Mt. Assisi Academy in Lemont, Ill., she attended Webster College in St. Louis. There she worked and lived with Sisters of Loretto at Mullanphy Street House, working with lower-income families. She lived in community in many places, filling many roles for Loretto, including in Kansas City, Northern California and Denver. In 1974, Paulette worked in an orphanage in war-torn Vietnam. This experience became pivotal to her life’s work, since after she earned her PhD in psychology at The New School for Social Research in NYC, she started as the leading therapist and team leader for the Veteran’s Administration Readjustment Center in Queens, N.Y. She spent 30 years helping returning soldiers deal with the emotional trauma of war. Paulette is married to Mark Nachmias and lives in Manhattan.

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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!