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Love and Joy of Osceola House Live On

Posted on December 1, 2021, by Mary Nelle Gage SL

The house always stood ready to welcome visitors, expected or not.
Photo by Ruth Routten

Bidding farewell to a home, to a house of hospitality, where the companionship, the conversation and the cuisine have been delightful is hauntingly hard. Loretto’s paving the way for a family of limited means to own their home in a friendly, vibrant neighborhood in southwest Denver begins the next chapter for the Osceola house.

Home to Mary Ann Coyle and Mary Ann Cunningham for 35 years, hospitality center to many Lorettos, means memories abound. After Mary Ann Coyle’s death, when it came time for Mary Ann Cunningham to join many friends at the Motherhouse in Kentucky, Loretto members came together to brainstorm possible uses for the house and to submit ideas to the Executive Committee. After deliberations, the decision was made to prepare the house for sale with the stipulation that the new owners be of modest means. Mary Helen Sandoval used her real estate skills to research the possibilities.

Mary Peter Bruce planted this tree in the backyard when it was just a sapling.
Photo by Leslee Moore

Meanwhile, Buffy Boesen and Cathy Smith came to town to collect family heirlooms as well as artifacts and papers valuable for the archives. Reid Clark took the reins to organize “Loretto, come and get it” days for Denver Loretto Community folks to obtain household goods, books, gardening supplies and the like. Mary Nelle Gage and Ruth Routten took specialty items, like Irish Coffee crystal mugs, to consignment shops. A make-an-offer yard sale followed, with Denver Lorettos serving as hosts and negotiator cashiers. Mary Helen then took charge of distributing the remainder with longtime Loretto Center employee Conley Jojola and his muscle power and truck to ARC, Goodwill and home health agencies. Such was the letting-go process of the structure. The soul and spirit of the house live on in treasured memories of people and prayer, plans and projects.

Mary Ann Cunningham remembers the Osceola house as a “wonderful place to be: the food and the laughter, the folks who would come and stay, so many meetings, wonderful neighbors. With three extra bedrooms, lots could come and stay for as long as they wanted.” Those who stayed included three women experiencing homelessness, who stayed for many months.

The neighbors were wonderful, indeed! During the yard sale, neighbors came to inquire about Sister Mary Ann as well as to select desired items and to lend a help- ing hand. One neighbor shared that he had sent his sons to Mullen and Notre Dame, had done occasional handyman work at a local parish, and only would take a few kitchen towels for payment after he studied, fetched his tools and fixed a leaky faucet in the basement, saying he “was glad to help the sisters.”

Many Community members spent time living in the house on Osceola, leaving their mark. Anna Koop visited weekly, planting and tending the garden and so much more. Mary Peter Bruce’s time is remembered by the evergreen tree that graces one corner of the backyard.

Nasreen Daniel remembers Osceola as being “like our second home, since we [she, Maria Daniel, and Samina Iqbal] came to Denver. We knew there was a place for us where we were welcomed with open arms and open hearts. We could cook Pakistani food freely and invite any of our friends.”

Irma Avila remembers Memorial Day breakfasts, when she was put in charge of the scrambled eggs in a humongous frying pan on a burner in the backyard. She also spoke of “great discussions when- ever we had guests, which was often, gratefully. There was a lot of laughter.”

Reid Clark recalls fun gatherings with laughter and singing on the back porch. “It was not unusual for conversations to turn to serious issues related to social justice and peace. It is hard to imagine how many signs and posters were created in that home. And we can’t speak of the Osceola house without mentioning the dogs. Che and Champ brought such great joy to the Mary Anns.”

Not surprisingly, Cathy Smith’s memories could fill a book. “I have nothing but wonderful memories of visiting or hearing about events at Osceola. Every visit was a journey into the unknown with them. Anything was bound to happen, depending what Community business had to be finished or what issue was hot off the press. … Everything was handled with grace and an ‘oh well, we can do this, too.’ Every day was always filled with laughter and love and Community building. No stranger was ever turned away, and even if the plan was six for dinner, and six-plus more walked in, they were made to feel as welcome and expected as the first six, time and time again. Hospitality abounded in this home, a home that was truly filled with love and laughter.”

The next chapter in the life at 3126 S. Osceola began Nov. 7, when the sale to Elevation Community Land Trust was completed, a land trust which is “committed to … helping households on the path to affordable home ownership.” Mary Helen represented the Loretto Community in arranging and completing the sale of the house. As she wrote to Barbara Nicholas, “The love and the joy that has been in that home for over 35 years will be passed on. Our dear Mary Anns will continue to share their blessings and hospitality with others over the years to come.”

Mary Ann Cunningham’s 1997 poem was among the treasures found prior to selling the house.
Photo courtesy of Mary Helen Sandoval


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

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