Loretto Heights College Comes Alive With the Sound of Music
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.
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.
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.