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Ritual of Remembrance and Sanctification at Loretto Motherhouse

Posted on February 6, 2022, by Loretto Community

Portrait of a Black man overlaid with red and yellow color washes and the words "lightening touches the ground."

The Loretto Community is pleased to share through social media some highlights of the Ritual of Remembrance and Sanctification that took place November 2021 at our Kentucky Motherhouse. Through this ritual and particularly through the Ancestor Spirit Portraits installed in Loretto’s church, we honor and seek deeper appreciation of the many individuals enslaved at Loretto — more than 50 men, women and children whose valuable service was rendered in bondage and allowed to go unnoticed in our history.

The Ritual of Remembrance and Sanctification was broadcast on Nov. 17 from Loretto Motherhouse, our homeplace, cherished as the place of spiritual grounding for each of us living and for all of us as a community since 1824. Many of us began our days with Loretto on these grounds; all of us have found peace and inspiration here; many have returned to spend our final years here. On these grounds we’ve explored Loretto’s history, woven relationships and strengthened Community bonds. 

On Nov. 17 we gathered virtually and in person at our homeplace for a different reason, to gain a different perspective. We gathered in our home church to see and hear with our hearts a tragic reality about our homeplace, that these grounds have been a place of wounding for many individuals of dignity and worth.

During the ritual hour of poetry, song and prayer we sought deeper appreciation of the many individuals enslaved at Loretto. We unveiled Ancestor Spirit Portraits, which evoked their memory and made tangible the dignity and worth of each individual.

Through this ritual we acknowledged that our Community has participated in the injustices of slavery and has a part in the legacy of harm continuing in this present time. Through this ritual we committed ourselves again very specifically to work for justice and act for peace.

Portrait of a Black man and woman overlaid with red paint spatter and the text "don't forget me benna."

The Ancestor Spirit Portraits at the center of the ritual are the work of an artists’ group, i-was-here. The group is led by artist Marjorie Guyon and includes photographer Patrick Mitchell, poet Barry Burton, musician Dr. Michael Preacely and community liaison Marshall Fields. These talented individuals responded enthusiastically to a request by the Loretto Heritage Center that they would bring the Ancestor Spirits to our Motherhouse to help us image the many enslaved persons who for so many decades have been invisible to our eyes.  

At the conclusion of the ritual, in the company of many open-hearted people, we resolved “to learn the stories and honor the work of those who toiled at Loretto without freedom or recognition … to reach out as a Community to the descendants of those we enslaved … welcome them and help restore to them the stories of their ancestors … and we will seek ways to join in the present concerns of the descendants of those who served us. We pray we may be faithful to these ‘resolves’ in the name of Loretto and of the Ancestor Spirits.”

All Ancestor Spirit Portraits courtesy of “I Was Here Project.” 

We are grateful to the following for their support of this project:
The Kentucky Humanities Council and The National Endowment for the Humanities
South Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts


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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!