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More than a Room

Posted on October 1, 2022, by Mary Nelson CoL

Mary Nelson helps with planting in the garden of Mary’s Haven.
Photo by Amanda Mattingly

Since my move to the Loretto Motherhouse, I’ve been asked how I could be happy with “just a room.” To be honest, the thought did cross my mind — briefly. At 82 and a recent widow, I knew I needed to look carefully at the next, and probably last, chapter of my life. I have two adult children with wonderful families who would be more than willing to “house” me, but after caring for my husband for two years, I knew that would not be an option. As a wife I found it natural to care for my husband. I did not want my sons doing that for me.

Fortunately the Loretto Motherhouse seemed an obvious choice. Moving east would put me closer to my sons. One family lives in western Tennessee, and the other family lives in central Florida. I knew I could visit them and not wear out my welcome. After I checked with Barbara Nicholas, she directed me to Cathy Smith to pursue the necessary steps.

Long story short: my home in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico sold without having to put it on the market, friends worked tirelessly to liquidate my stuff and I was ready to head east to Kentucky.

I was quarantined for two weeks in the guest house — a beautiful, perfectly maintained seven bedroom home. Because of Covid I could only receive my meals on the terrace or the back room of the dining room. Many residents whom I had met over the years would sit safe distances from me and keep me company. It turned out to be a Godsend because I needed that time to catch up on rest. The next important step was not only to choose where I wanted to live but also to be interviewed by those who live there. I chose the convent with a room close to the bathroom. Little did I know my room not only had air conditioning (something I had not had for 18 years) but also my own phone and television (no more sharing the remote). My interviewers were gracious and welcoming. Needless to say I moved in the next day (four boxes and two roller bags).

“More than a room” does not begin to cover what is available to us. I’m on the second floor of the convent which is just above the dining room where coffee is available early in the morning, and three wonderful meals are served with all kinds of snacks we can easily access. As we step off the elevator, we enter a wonderful library — books galore and a librarian to help. In addition, we have a beautifully appointed community room with space for groups to watch television together, play cards, do puzzles or just be together. Across the hall from the community room is our computer room with six computers available 24/7. Did I mention there is a computer geek on staff to help us with all things IT? Next to the computer room is our laundry area conveniently located near the exercise room with equipment to strengthen arms and legs.

Access to the porches is through the library or the community room. One is open-air looking down on the beautiful patio with exclusively native plants that require little maintenance. The enclosed porch is air-conditioned and hosts puzzles and recycling of clothing. Continuing through the open-air porch is the beauty shop and sewing room. At the end of the hallway is the Infirmary, a licensed long-term healthcare facility providing the highest standard of care. Infirmary residents come to the dining room and the church.

Speaking of the church, the central and an important focus is our beautiful church. The residents take turns leading prayer and communion services and giving homilies. As a woman in today’s world I feel blessed to experience the feminine.

Finally the Motherhouse residents and employees: The residents have spent their lives serving others and continue to welcome and serve; the employees are exceptional — many have been here for decades and have set such an example that their children are now serving the Community.

Imagine all of the above without having to endure unbearable heat and cold. When we do take advantage of the outdoors, we find a total of 788 acres consisting of 322 in woods, 23 in lakes, 188 in cropland, 174 in pastureland, 36 in native grasses, 17 in wild flowers with building sites covering the remaining 28 acres.

Much of the above, plus the Heritage Center, Knobs Haven and Cedars of Peace, are available for public access.

How blessed I am to spend the rest of my life in what was thought to be “just a room.” Living at the Motherhouse provides me with everything and more, proving that community is vital even as I age.


Mary Nelson CoL

Mary has been a Loretto Co-member since 2009. She serves as representative to the CPC from Community Group #7 in New Mexico. After 25 years of volunteer service in a maximum security women's prison she now serves as a coordinator of the Loretto Women's Network. Best of all, two sons have given her eight grandchildren!
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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!