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Loretto Heights College Comes Alive With the Sound of Music

Posted on February 1, 2019, by Mary Nelle Gage SL

At left, from center, Cathy Mueller, Mary Ellen McElroy and Joan Spero join in the Dec. 23, 2018, ecumenical Christmas service in the Loretto Heights Chapel.
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
Seen here at the Dec. 23, 2018, ecumenical Christmas service, the exquisite stained glass windows in the Loretto Heights Chapel depict the stories of Jesus’ life.
(Photo by Ruth Routten)

Loretto Heights College (LHC) campus, comprising just over 70 acres, was sold July 2018 by Teikyo-Colorado Heights to Westside Investment Partners. The cemetery was included in the sale. Among the 62 sisters buried there are Loretto Heights foundress Mother Pancratia Bonfils, 11 pioneer sisters who began coming to Denver in 1864 and Frances Marie Walsh, during whose presidency the residence halls, student center, theater and library were constructed. Education will continue on Mt. Loretto through the Denver Public Schools, which purchased 6 acres from Teikyo-Colorado Heights in 2017 and constructed both a school and a cafeteria.

Westside, the new owner, has been working with stakeholder groups, which began meeting regularly shortly after announcement of the intended sale in November 2016. Pearl McGivney directed Ruth Routten and me to represent her during the Denver community meetings and discussions regarding the future development, with particular emphasis on cemetery planning.

Singers and musicians perform at the Dec. 23, 2018, ecumenical Christmas service at Loretto Heights Chapel. At far right is Councilman Kevin Flynn.
(Photo by Ruth Routten)

After almost two years of meetings, Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn requested the involvement of the City of Denver. Mayor Michael B. Hancock and city planning office staff toured the campus, met with the stakeholder committee and committed planning office staff to the monthly meetings consisting of registered neighborhood representatives, History Colorado, Historic Denver, Sheridan and Englewood officials, LHC alumnae and Loretto. Westside has agreed to postpone decisions about redevelopment until later in 2019 to allow time for communitywide research and discussion of plans, needs and dreams.

Loretto is strongly encouraged by local historic preservationists. The Denver Landmark Preservation division of the city planning office commissioned an inventory of the historic resources of the campus. Silver Moon Consultants did considerable research with our Motherhouse Heritage Center, the LHC archives now overseen by Regis University and the Denver Public Library to produce a document highlighting both the history and the physical assets of the campus. Westside’s Loretto Heights project manager has spent hours in the LHC archives with me and another LHC alum. Our legacy on this highest point of Denver (5,510 ft.) is being respected and honored.

The iconic tower of Loretto Heights College stands out against the sky.
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)

To promote the revitalization of the May Bonfils Stanton Theatre, Councilman Flynn arranged a free, public performance of the Colorado Symphony in the theater this past Oct. 11. One highlight of the evening was the symphony conductor playing the LHC alma mater, “Forward, Forward, Loretto,” while an impromptu group of alums gathered at the piano to sing. The full-house crowd erupted in cheering applause when Councilman Flynn announced, “This is not the final curtain; it is opening night of the next exciting chapter.”

The joyful sound of music and scripture filled the chapel Dec. 23 when an ecumenical pre-Christmas service took place. More than 200 people filled the chapel, including Sisters of Loretto and alumnae. Rev. James Hoxworth called attention to the stories of Jesus’ life depicted in the exquisite stained glass windows. The musical highlight was Councilman Flynn singing “Silent Night” in its original German followed by a group of Hispanics singing it in Spanish and then a group of Vietnamese singing it in Vietnamese followed by the whole congregation singing the hymn in English, accompanied by organ, piano, guitar, drum and oboe.

You are invited to express your ideas about the future of the campus through an online survey conducted by the City of Denver Planning Office. I strongly encourage you to complete the survey and emphasize that the cemetery needs perpetual care: https//app.maptionnaire.com/en/5133. If you prefer, you may e-mail your ideas or send via U.S. mail to me.

A scene from the ecumenical Christmas service Dec. 23, 2018.
(Photo by Ruth Routten)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Flynn)
Mary Nelle Gage SL

Mary Nelle Gage SL

Mary Nelle was raised in Texas and graduated from Loretto Heights College ('66) where she met the Sisters of Loretto. After entering Loretto in 1967, she taught English, speech and drama at St. Mary's Academy and Machebeuf High School. Mary Nelle joined Sister Susan Carol McDonald in Saigon, Vietnam, to care for orphans and to assist with their adoption. For 20 years she resettled refugees for several church agencies. For 30 years she has done customer service at American Airlines and does occasional marketing for EarthLinks. She is involved in the preservation and re-development of the LHC (Loretto Heights College) campus.
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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!

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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!