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HomeLocalAround the ArchdioceseLocal carpenters lovingly hand-built Loretto Sisters' new caskets

Local carpenters lovingly hand-built Loretto Sisters’ new caskets

Operation ‘Sacred Rescue,’ as it has been called, continues in earnest at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Wheat Ridge.

Just over a month ago, more than 60 Sisters of Loretto were carefully, reverently and diligently exhumed from their resting places on the Loretto Heights campus in south Denver with the intention of reuniting them with other Sisters of Loretto buried at Mount Olivet.

Since then, the Neitenbach family has been working hard to provide caskets for each sister ahead of their re-burial next week. A labor of love out of respect for the sisters, they are donating their time and talent, putting in eight to 10 hours of work for each casket — multiplied by more than 60 caskets.

“My family has been working with the archdiocese since I was two years old,” said Luc Neitenbach, who has been supporting his father Bryan in building each of the caskets. In fact, while the construction of the caskets was a family affair, Neitenbach emphasized all the hard work his dad put in to make it happen: “He was the one who actually built every box, and we did the prep and finish work to support that effort. It means a lot to us to give back, especially when the archdiocese has been so good to us over the years. I feel like we’re just a piece of the puzzle of how things get done.”

When asked if he knew anyone that could build these caskets for the sisters, Neitenbach and his father Bryan volunteered immediately. “I didn’t think twice. I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting into, how much time and work it would be, but it’s a cool project. We do what we can.”

The Neitenbach family handcrafted the 62 new caskets for the Loretto Sisters who are being moved from Loretto Heights to Mount Olivet Cemetery. They previously crafted the casket that holds the remains of Julia Greeley at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo provided)

The herculean effort seeks to continue to ensure the dignity, respect and honor due the sisters. The sisters will be placed in their respective caskets and re-buried following a memorial Mass, celebrated by Bishop Jorge Rodríguez, at Mount Olivet next week. They will join their fellow sisters in a section of the cemetery reserved for priests and religious, just feet away from Gallagher Chapel, where the bishops of Denver like Bishop Machebeuf, who brought the Sisters of Loretto to Denver, are interred.

Far from the first time they’ve been involved in a “once-in-a-lifetime” project like this, the Neitenbachs were responsible for the construction of Servant of God Julia Greeley’s reliquary box, which was solemnly placed in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown in 2018. This is certainly an interesting additional connection between the sisters and Julia, since the Servant of God was one of the only people allowed in the room as Mother Pancratia of the Sisters of Loretto was on her deathbed.

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“That was uncharted territory for us,” Neitenbach shared. “We were asking questions constantly. In the end, my dad, brothers and I were the ones to put Julia Greeley in her final resting place. It was really cool, really awesome. To have the opportunity to do these sorts of projects that are once-in-a-lifetime is really great.”

Both unforeseen opportunities for service, these once-in-a-lifetime projects give the Neitenbachs a chance to give back in a way they can — donating their time and talents in a massive undertaking. And the effort is all to protect and promote the dignity of these sisters’ lives, even 100 years after their deaths.

“I feel like this is an extension of our Precious Lives program,” said Gary Schaaf, Executive Director of Mortuary and Cemeteries at Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, “in that we’re acknowledging the beauty of these ladies’ lives, even though many of them died more than 100 years ago.”

All are welcome to join the Sisters of Loretto in prayer at the reinterment Mass on Monday, August 22 at 11 a.m. Bishop Jorge Rodríguez will be the celebrant of the Mass at the Gallagher Chapel of Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. Mass will be preceded by a time for visitation, quiet prayer and a flower tribute, beginning at 10 a.m. Contact Deacon Marc Nestorick with questions at (303) 715-2083 or deacon.nestorick@archden.org.

André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira is the Digital & Social Media Manager for the Archdiocese of Denver. Originally from Connecticut, André moved to Denver in 2018 to work as a missionary with Christ in the City, where he served for two years.

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