Remembrance of the Life of Sister Mary Ann (formerly Sister Charles Loretto) Coyle SL
Mary Ann Coyle was born in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 1, 1925. Her parents were Charles L. Coyle and Loretta Teatum Coyle, both Catholic and lifetime residents of Des Moines. Mary Ann attended the local Catholic schools, staffed by BVM Sisters. After graduation from St. Joseph High School, Mary Ann worked at an insurance company for a year before matriculating at Loretto Heights College, Denver, where her cousin, Sister Maura Campbell, was a professor. She graduated from LHC in 1948 with a bachelor’s in chemistry, and returned to Des Moines to work as a research assistant at Pioneer Hybrid Co.
In 1951, at the age of 26, Mary Ann applied for admission to the Sisters of Loretto Congregation and entered on Oct. 25 that year. She took the name Sister Charles Loretto, by which she was known until the late 1960s. The group with whom Mary Ann made her first vows in 1954 was the first to be sent directly to St. Louis, to complete their baccalaureate studies. Because Mary Ann had completed college, she was instead assigned to St. Mary’s Academy in Denver to teach math and chemistry. In that same year she began work on a master’s in chemistry, and in 1956 she was released for full-time study at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., completing the requirements for the degree in 1958. She then was assigned to the science department at Loretto Heights College. Mary Ann did her doctoral work at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1964, and was appointed chair of the chemistry department at the Heights.
In 1969 Mary Ann volunteered as an exchange teacher for summer terms at Meharry College. Located in Nashville, Ten., Meharry Medical College is one of the nation’s oldest and largest historically black academic health science centers dedicated to educating physicians, dentists, researchers and health policy experts. During the 1970-71 school year, she taught at Texas College, an accredited historically black four-year college located in Tyler, Texas, affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Negro College Fund. She followed up with summers of voter registration in the southern states in the company of her good friend, Sister Mary Ann Cunningham — with whom she also studied Spanish in Mexico. These were the beginnings of Mary Ann’s interest in championing causes of the underprivileged.
Mary Ann had an equal interest in championing excellence in girls’ education. In 1977 she became the first president of St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Colo., the first of the Sisters of Loretto establishments in the state of Colorado. A major accomplishment of Mary Ann’s leadership was raising the money to pay off the mortgage on the high school building, a goal reached in just two years. In the following eight years under Mary Ann’s direction, an endowment fund was set up; the tradition of annual dinner-auctions as primary fundraisers was initiated; the Bishop Evans Sport Center was completed and dedicated; and an Early Learning Center was created at the Tech Center.
After completing her term of office at St. Mary’s in 1987, Mary Ann was tapped for service to the Loretto Community, becoming a member of the central staff and an elected member of the Executive Committee.
In 1994 Mary Ann was elected President of the Loretto Community, serving from January 1995 through the end of 2000. In this position she became an inspiring leader for the Sisters and Co-members of Loretto. Her frequent letters to the Community, keeping all informed of happenings in the Community, were sources of great encouragement, calling the Community to a deeper spirituality that would nourish compassion for one another and for the wider human community. With the assistance of the Executive Committee and staff, and with input from the community at large, Loretto could claim a number of significant accomplishments during Mary Ann’s term of office. Top of the list was gaining final approval from the Vatican for the Constitutions of the Sisters of Loretto,” I Am The Way.” Additionally, Loretto’s sister-community relationship with the Holy Family Sisters of Guatemala was deepened; a joint sponsorship with the Daughters of Charity Health System was formed and ground-breaking for a 50-bed addition to Nazareth Hall Infirmary in El Paso was undertaken. Houses for Loretto Volunteers were set up in St. Louis, Denver and El Paso and new office space for the Denver staff was found.
Under Mary Ann’s guidance, members of Loretto participated in projects and meetings with Peace Action — an organization merging SANE and The Nuclear Freeze, which now has effectively mobilized for peace and disarmament for nearly 60 years. Sister Mary Ann herself was involved in many other projects herself, both as Loretto President and in the years since. She served as Secretary for Region XIII of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and served on the Board of the Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters, the Board of Trustees of Havern School in Denver and the Board of Directors of Loretto Academy in El Paso.
Mary Ann also provided inspiring guidance for the Loretto Earth Network, largely through her editing and creative contributions to the LEN News.