Loretto Experience 2023: A Fulfilling Time for All
The Loretto Experience has been the annual event at the Motherhouse dedicated to co-members in-process. Thanks to COVID-19, it has been over three years since the co-membership team was able to offer it! You can imagine how grateful we were once again to spend several days together on the beautiful Motherhouse campus with the Motherhouse Community. Generous hospitality was offered by JoAnn Gates, Knobs Haven director; Ceciliana Skees, guest house director; Renee Edelen’s housekeeping team; the Motherhouse dining room staff and many members of the Motherhouse Community.
Our first evening’s ritual was led by JoAnn Gates reading the deeply moving poem, “Where I’m From,” by George Ella Lyon. Using that as our inspiration, she led us into our own reflective expressions of where we are from, sharing not only the details of place, but the subtle and profound experiences of our lives that we carry with us.
Day two started with Loretto Community Historian Eleanor Craig’s gifted storytelling, providing a rich history of Loretto’s presence on the site. Loretto’s ongoing education in land justice and reparations over the last several years truly informed Eleanor’s detailed sharing about the Indigenous people who inhabited the site prior to Loretto’s arrival and the enslaved people who had been an integral part of Loretto’s initial history. Reba Weatherford and Amanda Beard guided us through the archives and museum. We not only experienced some of the extensive body of Loretto’s archival material, we gained deep appreciation for the detailed, knowledge-based, time-consuming and invaluable work provided by the archives staff.
The afternoon led off with Cody Rakes, Loretto Motherhouse Farm manager, loading us on the hay wagon for a tour of the Motherhouse Farm. As always, his teaching skills were evident. He provided a captivating and informed understanding of the invaluable research and production integral to his work on the farm. Cody’s extensive involvement in agricultural, educational, academic and community institutions and organizations is a critical contribution to mediating the increasing impacts of climate change — and is one of the most invaluable missions that Loretto supports.
Day three afforded the opportunity to visit the Loretto Living Center. Several of us were able to visit friends and former teachers whom we hadn’t seen in years. The spirit of Loretto emanated from every one of them. We left with hearts full and spirits inspired.
We then were led on a tour of Cedars of Peace by Susan Classen and JoAnn. They also shared their beautiful home, resourcefully built from materials saved and found and conscientiously constructed to be energy-efficient and as sustainable as possible. Susan shared her own experiences and emerging awareness about the challenges confronting so many of us in this time of environmental and systems collapse, asking us to consider our own “growing edge” of transition.
Our closing ritual was led by JoAnn inviting our responses to “where we were” after our three days together, again inspired by the poem, “Where I’m From.” JoAnn beautifully captured the deep appreciation for the Motherhouse and our time together.