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Loretto’s Education Mission Extends Boundaries of Learning and Justice

Posted on February 1, 2021, by Loretto Community

“It has been Loretto’s legacy to inherit from Loretto’s early women a spirit of courage and trust and a willingness to meet the challenge of bringing education and the Gospel to others.” — Mary Ann Coyle SL, former Loretto president, Foundation Day, April 25, 1997, reflection at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver

A diorama by Loretto Sister Jeanne Dueber shows an image of a school house where Loretto Sisters taught.

The Rev. Charles Nerinckx, priest founder of the Sisters of Loretto, made many attempts to establish schools in the early years of Loretto. Mary Rhodes, one of the Loretto’s three founderesses, came to Kentucky with the encouragement of Father Nerinckx and began the formation of a new religious community. By April of 1812 the young community began to establish an identity. An increasing number of students, especially the poor and orphans, found welcome in the little school. The Loretto mission of education was born.

The 1812 provisional rule of Loretto’s nascent “Little Society of the Friends of Mary Under the Cross of Jesus” to Loretto’s governing bylaws of today are rooted in the charism of education. Loretto’s Constitutions, “I Am The Way,” #7, puts it this way: ”We continue to extend the boundaries of learning and justice, of human dignity and peace, of active faith and pastoral concern through works of education and efforts on behalf of the poor.“

Irma Avila SL. admires the Loretto history and education wall at the 2019 dedication of the Nerinx Hall High School Library in the name of Nerinx Hall past President Barbara Roche SL. Photo by Donna Day

Loretto education has been at the heart of Loretto mission since its beginnings. In a letter to the Sisters dated May 29, 1824, Father Nerinckx observed how, in the first dozen years, Loretto “took root, and grew to what it is now, without any man having much claim to its rise.” Our priest founder often told the young community of educators, “Remember the sacredness of your calling.”

And remember they did, as the mission of education spread across the United States, to China, South America, Ghana and Pakistan. Today, Loretto members continue to focus our spiritual and communal heritage to the crucial mission of education in all its forms. “We desire to educate others as well as ourselves to truth, beauty and the ways of peace in the spirit of Jesus.” (“I Am the Way,” Loretto’s Constitutions, #37)

Sister Ann Barrett tutors a student at the Motherhouse.

This Jan. 31-Feb. 6, Loretto joins with others to honor the mission of education during National Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Loretto wishes to acknowledge and celebrate Catholic schools in their role in teaching students to know and love God and neighbor. As communities of faith, Catholic schools instill in students their destiny to become saints. Academic excellence is the hallmark of Catholic education intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Service is fundamental to Catholic education and the core of Catholic discipleship. Service is intended to help form people who are witnesses to Catholic social teaching. 

We applaud the work Catholic schools do in forming students to be good citizens of the world and educating young people on how to enrich society with the leaven of the Gospel and by examples of faith.

Receiving an education, be it through Catholic schools or by other means, is a tremendous gift. As one Loretto teacher put it, “To be educated is to recognize our gifts and to develop our potential. It is to become whole and integrated.” May receiving an education, which Loretto sees as a basic human right, be available to all.

Loretto Academy Elementary School Principal Jane German CoL attends Mass with students at an earlier year’s Catholic Schools Week celebration.
Photo by Alejandra Saldana

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