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Making Movies: Loretto Captures Closings of Three Beloved Locations

Posted on June 1, 2018, by Eleanor Craig SL

Co-member-in-process Neil Tucker, not shown, films an interview of Denise Ann Clifford, at left, conducted by Archivist Eleanor Craig during the movie-making process. (Photo courtesy of Eleanor Craig)

Using high-flying drones, video and still cameras, interviews, photos and documents from the Loretto Heritage Center, Neil Tucker and I have been making movies about the closings of three well-loved Loretto places: the St. Louis Loretto Center, Nazareth Hall in El Paso and the Denver Loretto Center. All three buildings were erected at virtually the same time in the early 1960s in a coordinated plan to meet the needs of Loretto’s youngest and oldest members. All three have been transitioned several times to meet changing needs. And all three recently have been sold, creating significant changes for Loretto folks located in St. Louis, Denver and El Paso. The trilogy of closings is worthy of a trilogy of movies. They document the almost 60-year period during which the numbers of Loretto members spiked, peaked, then gradually declined.

Neil is a video-journalist, handy with a camera, skillful as an interviewer and brilliant as an editor. I have an ear for stories and my fingers on the facts that ground the stories in history. Our trilogy began when the closing of the St. Louis Loretto Center was announced in early 2016. It seemed natural for the Loretto Heritage Center to prepare some kind of review of the Center’s nearly 60 years to be used at the Dec. 8, 2016, final commemoration. I invited Neil to collaborate on a movie about the history of the Center from its beginnings as a House of Studies to its end as a house of hospitality and retirement.

By November 2016, the movie was finally wrangled down to 20 minutes but still lacked background music. Neil and I were at the St. Louis Center over a long weekend to finish the editing and, providentially, Jessie Rathburn also was present.At dinner, I asked if she would let Neil record her playing the piano, and Jessie graciously agreed, provided Elizabeth Ann Compton would coach her. Jessie’s fine piano music became the score for “Holy Ground,” the movie about the St. Louis Center, first shown on Dec. 8, 2016, at the closing celebration.

Early in 2017 arrangements were finalized for Nerinx Hall High School to purchase the St. Louis Center. About the same time plans for closing the Denver Center were announced. Soon after that, the likely sale of Nazareth Hall in El Paso also became known. Neil and I geared up to make two more movies. In June, we traveled to El Paso to shoot interviews and “b-roll.”

The image of videographer Neil Tucker appears in the camera’s viewfinder.
(Photo courtesy of Eleanor Craig)

Several days into the work in El Paso, Neil came in from the grounds of Loretto Academy and said, “I had my drone flying high above the Academy tower and a fighter jet flew close and buzzed it!” He looked stunned. There are rules about flying drones; either Neil’s was too close to the Biggs Air Field or too close to the border wall. Even so, his high-flying shots give stunning perspectives on Nazareth Hall, a nursing care facility built on a corner of the Loretto Academy campus, serving sisters and later expanding to include retirees from the neighborhood. The movie is titled “Loretto Living,” an often-expressed desire that Loretto’s legacy will live on in the building through its continuing service to El Pasoans.

The closing of the Denver Loretto Center rapidly approached with a celebration scheduled for Dec. 8, 2017. Neil and I interrupted our editing of the El Paso movie and headed for Denver. I invited the Heritage Center’s newest archivist, Katie Santa Ana, to join the trek.

Neil and I recorded interviews with those gathered for the celebration and with Denver natives whose lives have been intertwined in multiple ways with the Center. As in St. Louis, the Denver Center also met a succession of Community needs. At first a novitiate and provincial house, very soon it became a home for Loretto Heights faculty and retired sisters. Works of Loretto mission developed at the Center, including Havern School, the Rhodes Tutoring Center and the Loretto Spirituality Center. Havern has purchased the Center so the Loretto legacy of education will continue in the building.

At the end of the week, Neil recorded the Dec. 8, 2017, celebration itself, the Mass, a walk-through with a litany of names and the dinner with its gracious welcoming atmosphere and humorous remembrances. Hints of all these appear in the movie, which is presently in final editing stages. The tentative name of the Denver Center movie is “A Building for Every Season.”

The trilogy of movies represents about 600 hours of work by we two moviemakers, working side by side and individually. Neil volunteered his time, part of his contribution as a Loretto co-member-in-process. I worked in my capacity as archivist with the Loretto Heritage Center. Both of us are eager that our efforts be widely viewed. Click on the following links to view the videos:

The Loretto Archives produced a trilogy of movies on the closings of, from left, St. Louis Loretto Center, Denver Loretto Center and Nazareth Living Center. The trilogy represents about 600 hours of work by moviemakers Archivist Eleanor Craig and videographer Neil Tucker. To tell Loretto’s history in these buildings, they used high-flying drones, video and still cameras, interviews, photos and documents from the Loretto Heritage Center. All three centers were erected at virtually the same time in the early 1960s in a coordinated plan to meet the needs of Loretto’s youngest and oldest members, and the buildings have been repurposed several times to meet changing needs. All three centers now have new owners. (Photos by Nicole Martinez and Jean M. Schildz)
Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She studied and taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, but her personal passion for adventure history has inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic western trails (she's conducted more wagon trains along the Oregon Trail than the Mountain Men). Presently, Eleanor leads a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse.
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