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Mary Helen Sandoval CoL

Posted on January 1, 2019, by Loretto Community

A biography and photo of Mary Helen Sandoval CoL, a member of Loretto's Community Forum.

I was born in Brainerd, Minn., the youngest of six children. In 1961, I went to Loretto Heights College. After graduating with a degree in math, with minors in education and physics, I entered the Loretto novitiate in Denver. At that time I was a very conservative Republican and was concerned that the readings at breakfast were extremely slanted with a liberal perspective. I talked with Sister Cecily about this and she encouraged me to bring any readings I thought appropriate. Her openness made a huge impact and enabled me to listen with new ears and an open heart.

During my years in the novitiate I was given the opportunity to interact and get to know people living in poverty. Slowly, I learned the meaning of social justice. As time went on I came to recognize this fit with my own values. The commitment to peace and justice has been central in my life ever since. I am grateful to Loretto for the gift of dramatically altering my life.

After three and a half years, I left the order and taught in inner city Catholic schools in Denver. I married Paul Sandoval and nine months later we left for Honduras to volunteer for two years with the Jesuits in El Progreso. Although our time there was cut short, it was long enough to witness extreme poverty, gross injustice and horrific living conditions. The memories are forever imprinted in my being and radically changed my worldview. Paul and I had four wonderful children. Now I have six grandchildren, ranging in age from 9 to 22, who are a joy to my heart.

Professionally, Paul and I started a tamale business, which became very successful. Later, after Paul and I divorced, I directed a non-profit organization whose mission was building community and revitalizing inner city neighborhoods. I also developed affordable housing throughout the State of Colorado working with Mercy Housing.

I longed to re-establish a deeper connection to Loretto and became a Co-member 20 years ago. Since then, I have been active on several committees, including the Loretto Land Use Committee, Pakistan Committee, Papal Bull Rescission Committee and Retreat Planning Committee for young people connected to Loretto. Today, my days are filled with my work as a realtor, volunteering with some local non-profits as well as Loretto committees and happily assisting with care for my grandchildren. I am blessed to have a large vegetable garden, which keeps me connected to the earth.


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  1. Avatar Cathy Gontar on April 3, 2021 at 11:32 am

    Mary Helen Sandoval:
    I remember you well from our second year novitiate in Kentucky.
    I worked as a librarian in Louisiana for many years, raised four children, am now retired.

    We had many special experiences that year. Daniel Berrigan spoke to us. Our classes with Daniel Walsh.
    Meeting Merton at Walsh’s ordination.
    My teachers, Sister Philothea (Christ the King, Daphne, Alabama) Sister Sara Ann (Bishop Toolen) Sister Jeanine Swift (Toolen) all
    now deceased–my life would have been so much less without them. All brilliant women, ahead of their time.

    Sister Mary Luke Tobin had a man, “Catholic” author, visit us in the main living room that year. I cant remember his name. I wonder if
    the librarian at Loretto in Kentucky would have that information. 1966-67.

    “Sister Evelyn”

    • Avatar Loretto Community on April 6, 2021 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of Loretto, Ms. Gontar.

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