In these screenshots from the October Gathering above Kim Klein, Sally Dunne, and Sue Kenney help guide the proceedings.
“A Lasting Endowment of Hope” was the theme of the 2023 Gathering and was the point of reference in many of the segments.
Although the plan had been to meet in person, a recent outbreak of the unwelcome coronavirus made it necessary that we meet by Zoom in our familiar little boxes. Over 130 Loretto people participated!
The first day began officially with a few remarks by President Barbara Nicholas, including a land acknowledgment of the Indigenous and enslaved peoples who first occupied Loretto lands. Then Marty Lally celebrated Mass from Denver, with a contingent in the church at Loretto Motherhouse providing active participants from afar. It was remarkably moving even over many miles.
Sue Kenney, one of the four planners (along with other hard workers Jane German, Sharon Kassing and Paulette Peterson) who had found it necessary to pivot from an in-person meeting to a virtual one, introduced the events of the day and continued as emcee. A surprising (to many) and disturbing presentation was from Treasurer Buffy Boesen and Director of Finance Shannon Drury sharing the news that, different from our previous expectations, the congregation’s retirement resources are not expected to be fully funded in the coming years. We referred to this many times during the meeting.
Kim Klein encouraged us to realize that there is always change and that we have an active part in evolution. We considered several ways Loretto has evolved. We heard from a panel of leaders of special Loretto missions. Rosa Lizarde told of the evolution of the Latin America/Caribbean Committee. Eleanor Craig spoke of Loretto land and how it has evolved over 200-plus years. Annie Rosenkranz gave the history and present work of the new Loretto Justice Fellowship, which grew from the Loretto Volunteer program. We were given many ways to consider how to move forward as we evolve further.
Sally Dunne facilitated the next day which opened with a ritual. After that we had the treat of a video of entities at the Motherhouse. Neil Tucker and Eleanor Craig had prepared the video which includes Neil’s remarkable photography and Eleanor’s informative commentary showing both continuity and change. Among those interviewed were Susan Classen, JoAnn Gates, Jessie Rathburn, Michael Bickett, Cathy Smith and Michelle Essex, and the interviews were supported by lovely images of the surroundings of the Motherhouse, such as Baden Pond, wildlife and refurbished buildings. It was breathtaking.
When we considered how to proceed at Loretto Motherhouse, a continuum led us from “assume everything will continue more or less as now” to “it will all change and possibly end.” Most participants did not want to be on an extreme end, and the planners adjusted the choices. Loretto Link came up in many of the suggestions. Priorities and guiding principles met with realistic worries and plans.
The third and last day began with Maureen O’Connell and Pat Geier reflecting on previous discussions and leading us to think of what had surprised us, what was difficult to hear as well as what inspired us. Breakout groups considered these questions in addition to next steps in planning. The topic was challenging but also energizing.
Another treat was a presentation by Jessie Rathburn about Pope Francis’s letter Laudato Si’ and the brand new Laudate Deum. Jessie stretched us to consider just how we plan to live according to the ideas of the letters. It is a challenge that we will strive to meet as we can.
During a panel consisting of Kathy Wright, Cathy Mueller, Buffy Boesen and me, each spoke of hope rising from the work of the three days. Lots of hope was evident.
Then Jean East told about Loretto Link (LLink), the nonprofit organization that intends to keep Loretto alive in spirit and practice into the future. LLink is in its fifth year. Jean explained the evolution (to build on that theme) and some of the group’s current work.
Barbara Nicholas commissioned us to go forward with hope and good works. Music throughout the meeting was enjoyable and meaningful. With Barbara’s words and the final song, we moved out of the Gathering and into our everyday lives.