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Trust Empowers Us

Posted on May 1, 2022, by Eleanor Craig SL

Recent calls for Loretto to do something to meet the urgent need for low-income housing sparked me, as Loretto’s historian, to review Loretto’s contributions to housing for low-income elders and families.

Even in Loretto’s earliest days on the Kentucky frontier, it was our practice to welcome widows into our homes. Considering just the latter half of the 20th century, we find that Loretto devoted both talent and treasure in meeting the need for low-income housing in St. Louis, Denver, El Paso and points around the country.

An impressive number of Loretto members committed their individual talents to providing low-income housing beginning in the 1970s. Bernie Feeney, Gloria Lewis, Mary Helen Sandoval, Joy Jensen, Barbara Roche, Kathleen Tighe and Kathleen O’Malley are among those who contributed their energies through various housing agencies. The Loretto Archives would like to hear about others who belong on this list, including the many members who contributed work hours to their local Habitat for Humanity.

Loretto also made significant institutional contributions to low-income housing. Three stand out: Mary Catherine Rabbitt led Loretto’s creation of Mount Loretto, 69 units of one, two, three or four bedrooms on the campus of the former Loretto Heights College in Denver; Virginia Williams, Mary

Louise Denny, Donna Day and other Loretto members in St. Louis brought about the transformation of the former Loretto Academy on Lafayette into Pillar Place; Loretto’s nursing facilities for elder members in El Paso and at the Motherhouse have long shared our Medicare and Medicaid rooms with neighborhood elders.

Loretto treasure has added strength and flexibility to Loretto’s work to meet housing needs. The funds held by Loretto and loaned to organizations for housing represent the income of Loretto sisters’ salaries and the contributions of Loretto’s grateful donors. Through the alternative investment activities of Loretto’s Investment Committee, low-interest loans have been made for housing projects that could not qualify for bank loans, or where the interest charged by a commercial lender would make the project unaffordable. Each organization receiving Loretto loan funds is a boots-on-the-ground expression of Loretto’s commitment to work for justice and act for peace.

As early as 1987 Loretto made a 30-year loan to Holy Name Partnership working in Omaha and surrounding communities to provide quality affordable housing and homeownership education. Several consecutive loans to Mercy Housing soon followed. Since 2000, the Loretto Investment Committee has made low-interest loans for affordable housing to Grail Housing in San Jose, Calif.; Beyond Housing in St. Louis; Intercommunity Housing Association in St. Louis; Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, Ore.; HEAD Community Loan Fund, including the Family Farm Loan fund; Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises and others. Recent housing loans include Neighborhood Enterprises in St. Louis and the Community Land Trust of West Marin in California.

In the more than 35 years that Loretto has been making low-interest housing loans, the amounts of the loans have varied widely, from a low of $5,000 to a high of $100,000 at rates from 0% to 6% with most loans repaid at the rate of 1% or 2%. In all the years of Loretto’s low-interest housing loans none of the borrowers has defaulted although a few have asked for and received more time to complete the payments.

Using our talent and treasure, or as Loretto members would say, giving ourselves and sharing our goods, — that’s always been Loretto’s way of addressing the need for affordable and low-income housing.


Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. Now retired, she still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.
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