Monday, January 25, 2010


On my way home tonight I was thinking about how January 26 is exactly one year since we heard that Loretto High School was closing. Loretto was an all-girls, Catholic school in Sacramento, established in 1955. I graduated from Loretto in 2000 and began my career as a teacher there in 2005.

As I was driving I spent some time thinking about what I would say about Loretto; when I got home the newest issue of Sacramento Magazine was in my mailbox with the story “The Last Days of Loretto.” I prepared myself to read about the last four months there, but the story focused mostly on the financial woes, the lawsuits and the ongoing questions about the closure.

That is not what I choose to remember about the last days. What I think of is community, love and spirit. I think about how beautiful it was that the juniors and seniors welcomed the younger students into traditions reserved for upperclassmen. I witnessed teachers supporting students and students supporting teachers. For the first time in my teaching career I was vulnerable in front of my students and it was okay as we shared anger, grief, and uncertainty about our future. I experienced the greatest outpouring of support and love from my colleagues who are among my most cherished friends. There were faculty room moments filled with tears and others filled with laughter. There were A LOT of after school moments at the bar, where my friends and I processed what was happening to our world. Our days passed like normal, the closing of the school sometimes an impossible reality as we faced the daily tasks of homework, grades and lesson plans.

The situation was ugly, our experience was not.

I have already written about how this one event changed all the plans I had for the next few years of my life. One year later all I can say is that I am still searching. Loretto was more than just a school to many of us. It was a way of life. It was an experience. It was my family. I don't know if I can ever fully be healed from the closing or if I will ever really "get over it." Loretto is where I wanted to spend my teaching career. It is where my unborn daughters were going to attend school.

Below is the speech that I gave at the closing ceremonies for Loretto. It does not speak a fraction of what Loretto meant to me, but perhaps will give you a lasting impression far better than this most recent magazine article.

I grew up at Loretto twice. The first time I went from young girl, to young woman. This time I became an adult, confident in career and life. For the eight years I spent here, for all the men and women who touched my life, I am forever grateful.

Since I was asked to speak several weeks ago, I have been running through all of the different things that I wanted to say. How does one honor 54 years of such a blessed institution in just a few minutes? How do I put all that I experienced here since 1996 into a short story that means something to you? I spent days trying to formulate something that would make sense and so what I have for you are three words—spirit, sisterhood and service.

The spirit of Loretto is a spirit of faith as we are united by our common belief and celebrate together in prayer, retreat and Eucharist. It is tradition—fierce competitiveness handed down through the classes in collections and Homecoming games and Powder Puff games of old, balanced with a gentle love for one another, evident on our sports teams, in clubs and by the sharing of Senior Lawn. It is a spirit of strength, believing that because we are women, educated women, Loretto-educated women, that we can achieve whatever we like in our education, careers and family life. It is a spirit of determination, that despite loss and adversity, that we will overcome. The Loretto spirit is generous, kind and hard working. Sometimes the spirit is even a little silly — assuring young woman that it okay to be funny, daring and even run around at lunch time with a red fleece blanket on your shoulders like superwoman. That by the way, was me.

Everyone speaks of the sisterhood here. But when I hear that word, I first think of my own sister, who was a little resistant to come to Loretto when I was beginning my junior year. Like many of our students, Cristina had to be bribed with the “try it for one year” line. I was desperate for her to love this place as I loved it. Growing up I had had a hard time making friends and fitting in. But life at Loretto had changed that for me. I was welcomed by new friends. I was nurtured by the older girls in choir, I was empowered by the others in Student Council and I wanted my own sister to be part of that Loretto family too. And she, like so many of the others of this school, found it for herself. Loretto is a sisterhood because our shared experience of the Loretto spirit is unique to this place. It is not limited by age, it spans classes and generations. The 11 alumnae faculty and staff here represent 4 different decades and they are a daily reminder that our sisterhood is cross-generational. The relationships first formed in this place remain a living testament to the family we have created.

Service. In the Gospel of John we read of Christ washing the feet of his disciples. This story has held a special place in our Senior Retreat for many years as it has been used to issue the call of service to our graduating seniors. Today I extend this challenge to us all, that just as our feet have been washed, literally and figuratively, by those who have served us, it is our time and our call to go forth and serve others. Let the Loretto community continue to serve others as we have served this community for the last 54 years. Let our legacy be of selflessness, of giving, of a sisterhood who served, of a spirit that would not die.

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