Home » Features » Spotlight on Loretto wisdom women – April 2023

Spotlight on Loretto wisdom women – April 2023

Posted on April 1, 2023, by Joy Jensen SL

Editor’s note: We are featuring interviews of Loretto Community elders. We are grateful to the sisters and to Joy Jensen for sharing wonderful snapshots of our beloved Community members.

Today we collect daffodils, watch geese flying north and listen to the April wisdom women. This month we spotlight Valerie Novak, Dorothy Ortner and Elaine Prevallet.

The Loretto Living Center at Loretto Motherhouse is home to interesting Loretto Community elders. The purpose of this series is to shine a spotlight on the lives of resident elders, women of wisdom. As the interviewer, I gave each person two questions ahead of time to think about:

1) What was your favorite mission ministry or job before you retired?
2) What is important to you at this time of your life?

Valerie Novak

Valerie Novak SL

Marianne Novak Houston, Valerie Novak’s sister, graciously provided interesting information about an important event in Val’s life:

Sister Valerie Novak (and Marianne Novak Houston) celebrated Val’s 50th Loretto anniversary with a European tour of the countries of their family’s origins. “A highlight was 8-10 days in Poland with stops in Warsaw, beautiful medieval Krakow (just miles from our maternal family’s home), Lublin and the old Roman city of Lodz. In Katowice we visited a retired old priest named Jan Rys, the same name of our grandfather, who was in seminary with John Paul II and was raised in the same village. In Czestochowa, at the shrine of the Black Madonna, we sang several Polish hymns that our mother taught us many years ago — a lovely end to our trip.”

Dorothy Ortner

Dorothy Ortner CoL

Eleanor Craig kindly provided information about Dorothy Ortner.

From 1956-1970 Dorothy taught in St. Louis, Mo. She said, “This period was one of the happiest of my life, as St. Louis was alive with and after Vatican II.” In 1974 “I moved to NY and began work with Bread for the World — a Christian food lobby — as the first field director and my field was the United States. During the same period 1974-1976 I served as the chair of the National Assembly of Women Religious division of Sisters Councils and visited Councils across the nation as I traveled for Bread for the World.

“Then came the chance of my lifetime: I was a member of the Sisters of Loretto Third World Experience. I lived for 10 months in Tanzania as a learner of customs, culture, political mode, way of life — particularly for women — and I also learned more about myself than I cared to know at the time. That experience changed my life. In 1979, I asked for a dispensation from my final vows as a Sister of Loretto.”

Dorothy Ortner became a co-member in 2011 and moved to the Loretto Motherhouse. In 2012 she served on the Motherhouse Coordinating Board and the Farm and Land Committee.

Elaine Prevallet

Elaine Prevallet SL

Elaine answered the first question thoughtfully, “My favorite ministry, the first one, the most fun, was teaching high school because the kids were so much fun. I was 24. It was my first entrance into teaching. They would stay after school. Some of them I’m still connected with. The relationships in college were more serious, deeper, and I’m still in touch with some of them, too. I was teaching in high school in Denver for three years. Then I was sent to graduate school for a Ph.D. in theology. Then I was teaching at Loretto Heights.”

For the second question Elaine said, “As I think about it, as I have aged, my vision has expanded. What matters to me now is more global, planetary, deeper and wider. As I have lived, my vision has continued to expand. But I think that would be true of most people. As the culture develops, the vision develops, and now we think more planetary, more globally, more universally. It widens, gets more inclusive. It’s one of the gifts of Loretto that has been a gift that has opened my vision. It’s important to include my theology, my vision, my interest in other religions. Whether I am just a Roman Catholic, my vision of God is, I don’t know what.”


Joy Jensen SL

Joy is a vowed member, and she resides in the Motherhouse infirmary. Previously, Joy was a community organizer in St. Louis at St. Alphonsus Liguori “The Rock” Church, a historic Catholic church with a predominately African-American faith community. She also did some teaching at St. Louis University after receiving her doctorate. She enjoys reading American history and spy thrillers. Joy also enjoys knitting.
Cupola Cross 2-Icon

Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cupola Cross 2-Icon

Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!