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Nuns at the Polls: Loretto and Politics

Posted on October 16, 2020, by Loretto Heritage Center

by Ayla Toussaint and Mary Frances Lottes SL

It’s November, which means it is election month in the US!  This blog post was written with the help of one of our past Sisters, Sister Mary Fran Lottes.  We share this story as an example of how the Sisters of Loretto take a strong interest in their local communities and in national politics.

A remembrance written by Sister Mary Fran Lottes

One day, my neighbor told me that Hillary Clinton would be speaking in Santa Fe at the courtyard in a building off the main plaza and it was to be open to the public.  He worked in a government office so I presumed he knew what he was talking about.  So, on the appointed day and hour I made my way to the plaza and saw a line of people waiting outside the designated building.  I thought it a little strange that I did not recognize anyone there but I took my place at the end of the line.  In a short time the door of the building opened and people began going forward.  When I entered the building I saw a woman sitting at a table and she had a paper in front of her.  As I approached her she asked me my name.  I told her my name and that I was a Sister of Loretto. She looked at her paper and said, “Your name does not seem to be on the list.”  I decided to play the game so I said in surprise, “It doesn’t?”  She looked at a guard standing near who had obviously heard our exchange.  He nodded at her to let me in.

The courtyard looked lovely.  There were about 100 chairs arranged in a semi-circle.  Again, I looked around and did not recognize anyone.  The presentation obviously was not open to the public and I had no idea who organized the event.  I sat down and acted like I belonged there.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hillary.  She was very attractive and I appreciated her thoughts.  After the presentation someone announced that anyone who would like to have her/his picture taken with Hillary should get in the line.

Picture of First Lady Hillary Clinton and Mary Frances Lottes, SL
Taken in Santa Fe, NM, May 26, 1995

As my turn came, I stepped forward.  Hillary put out her hand and smiled.  I introduced myself as a Sister of Loretto and told her that I supported her thoughts and concerns and that I would pray for her.  She seemed very pleased and thanked me. 

As I left the courtyard, I had no idea how I would ever see and get a copy of the picture.  After a week or two I called the Democratic office and asked if they knew where I might get the picture.  They gave me a number to call. When I asked my question I received the response that as a matter of fact they did have one picture left and they did not know where to send it.  I asked if I could come in and pick it up.  They said that would be fine.  When I told them my story, they enjoyed it and were pleased to hand me the picture.  It was a lovely picture.  On the back it says:  “An official White House Photo.”  I was impressed.

This story of Sister Mary Fran Lottes represents not only the spunk and tenacity of the Sisters, but also shows their commitment to educate themselves about and take part in local and national politics.  It is often said that behind every movement calling for peace, justice, or social change, there is a Sister of Loretto.  While this may be a slight exaggeration, it is true that the Sisters stand up for what they believe in.  This support comes in many forms, such as marching in demonstrations and protests, attending meetings and making their voices heard, and voting with certain policies and issues in mind. 

In our current day and age, it may not seem surprising for people to be vocal about their political opinions, but for a Catholic Congregation of Sisters it is a new phenomenon.  In 1912, Sisters of Loretto in Taos, N.M., chose not to vote in the first election open to women because the municipal school board election was rife with partisanship and  ill feeling about Catholics.  In contrast, current Sisters of Loretto use their voices to call for community action and change, as can be seen in our previous posts discussing protests.

One of the most impactful ways to make a change in our society is by using our right to vote.  This November, be sure you are heard.  Verify you are registered to vote and either request an absentee ballot or head out to the polls in person.


Loretto Heritage Center

The Loretto Heritage Center includes both an Archive and a Museum where the 200-year history of the Sisters of Loretto and the 40-year history of the Loretto Community are documented in paper, artifacts and richly interpretive exhibits. Its knowledgeable staff offer assistance and information to those wishing to learn more about Loretto and its history.
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  1. Avatar Lorraine Fazzino on October 17, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    I enjoyed the above article by Sister Mary Frances Lottes very much. A timely post and reminder of the continued work still to be done for peace, justice and social change.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on October 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      Thank you, Ms. Fazzino, for your thoughtful comment.

  2. Avatar Judy A Leal on December 28, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Nice to see this. I lived around the corner from Mary Fran in Santa Fe. She came back from seeing Hillary, and I got to see the photo! She was very elated that she was able to meet her.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on January 4, 2021 at 10:29 am

      And we were elated to see the photo, too, Ms. Leal! Thank you for your comment.

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Loretto welcomes you

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