October 02, 2018
The Sisters of Loretto were honored as the recipients of the 4th Annual Dei Gratia Award during the 12th Annual Foundation of Faith Dinner on Thursday, September 20, 2018 for their significant work and profound impact in education. The Dei Gratia Award was presented to the Sisters of Loretto by Jo Soto, Class of 1970. Sr. Eileen Custy, SL, accepted the award on behalf of the Loretto Community and many were moved to tears as they watched the inspirational video created by Joe Najera for the celebration.
The Dei Gratia Award, Latin for “By the Grace of God”, recognizes an individual, couple, or organization for their servant leadership, outstanding contribution to the Diocese of El Paso and our Catholic community, and their dedication to being good stewards of God’s grace.
The Sisters of Loretto arrived in San Elizario in 1879 and opened St. Joseph's Academy, the first “Lorettine” school in Texas. In September, 1892 the Sisters of Loretto opened St. Joseph Academy in El Paso in the building formerly occupied by a school operated by the Sisters of Mercy. In October of the same year Sacred Heart School opened on South Oregon Street. In 1921, against the advice of Bishop Anthony Joseph Schuler, S.J., the first bishop of El Paso, Mother Praxades Carty bought 19 ½ acres of desert land. Bishop Schuler told her, “If you succeed in building here, I’ll say you are the special child of our Divine Lord.” In 1923, Henry Trost designed Loretto Academy which was constructed on a seven-acre campus in the Austin Terrace area of the city. St. Joseph Academy closed when the new school opened. Subsequent parochial schools were opened and staffed in El Paso by the Sisters of Loretto, including St. Mary's or Immaculate Conception, St. Ignatius, Guardian Angel, Holy Family, St. Joseph, St. Patrick, and Our Lady of Assumption.
Mother Praxedes worked tirelessly on behalf of her order, traveling to Rome three times to meet with the Pope, sending Loretto nuns to nurse many afflicted during an epidemic of influenza, and overseeing the establishment of 51 Loretto academies. It was after she had retired as a Superior General that she moved to El Paso to help build Loretto Academy. Mother Praxedes placed St. Joseph's Chapel between the convent and the school so that the entire building looked towards El Paso and across the border to Juárez, arms outstretched, to offer education to girls from both countries. Loretto Academy continues to carry out the vision of Mother Praxedes today.
Photo Credit: Alejandra Saldaña Video Credit: Joe Najera