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Sisters of Loretto honor alumni, sister with awards at annual event 

The Sisters of Loretto have served the Denver community, educating scores of women at Loretto Heights College, for nearly a century. This summer, they gathered to honor alumni of Loretto Heights, as well as Sister Frances Marie, who served as the college’s eighth president and was recently reunited with her sisters at Mount Olivet Cemetery in what was deemed “Operation Sacred Rescue.” 

Ried Clark and Rod Lansberry were honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award, recognizing the success and contributions of Loretto Heights alumni each year. Clark, a co-member of the Loretto Community, continues to serve alongside the sisters in the Denver area.

Lansberry, after studying technical theater and design at Loretto Heights and earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts, went on to serve as the Producing Artistic Director of the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. 

“I have had a full career,” said Lansberry, reflecting back on her more than 40 years in the theater business. Even still, the Distinguished Alumni award came as a “complete surprise” to her.  

“To be honored in such a way has made me feel humble and proud,” Lansberry shared. “Humble as I feel I have been lucky to be well-trained. I feel proud that I graduated from a college that prepared me for life in the real world. And for that, I thank the faculty and especially the Sisters of Loretto for the strong institution that they created.” 

In addition to the alumni awards, the Sisters of Loretto presented the Lumen Christi (“Light of Christ”) award to the family of Sister Frances Marie, who passed away in 1968. Michaela Walsh, Sister Frances Marie’s niece, was present to accept the award on her family’s behalf. 

“I knew her as the famous aunt that would come to visit. She was tall and had a big smile. She always talked to us as young people and as young nieces and nephews,” Walsh shared, recalling her childhood with “Aunt Marie.” 

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The eldest of nine, Sister Frances Marie took her sister to Loretto and ensured that she got settled with the sisters, a duty she took seriously, not leaving the premises. During that time, Sister Frances Marie decided to stay and become a sister herself, Walsh said, going on to “become a famous, well-known fundraiser and educator within the Loretto order.” 

As a Sister of Loretto, Sister Frances Marie led Loretto Heights college for 18 years, overseeing the vast expansion of the campus, faculty and student enrollment. In her tenure, enrollment tripled, six new buildings were constructed, and nursing, teaching and adult education programs were established for the benefit of the students. Her leadership earned her the Colorado Women of Achievement Award in 1966, two years after her retirement. 57 years later, the Lumen Christi Award was added to her list of accolades in appreciation of her great service to the local community. 

Sister Frances Marie Walsh was posthumously awarded the Lumen Christi award by the Sisters of Loretto.

That very service and example became ever more evident in the life of Walsh, who herself had a storied and successful career in finance and banking. 

“She took her school and made it very popular,” Walsh said of her aunt. “She was friendly and vivacious and she was thoughtful. And she was smart. She was a leader. And that’s what I wanted to be.”  

Indeed, a leader Walsh became, serving in various posts around the world, teaching herself along the way and ending up a partner at a local Denver company, all while establishing organizations to encourage women’s participation in her field around the world.  

“Everything I’ve done since I went to [the first UN Women’s Conference in Mexico City in 1975] was to create life, to focus on how can I contribute to make life easier for the people coming behind me, particularly women,” she said. 

Having followed in her aunt’s footsteps of strong leadership, Walsh was honored to accept the award on behalf of her “biggest influence.”  

“The fact that I was asked to go accept that award on behalf of the whole family in some ways was significant,” Walsh said. “It was significant for the family and for me. So I felt very complimented and rewarded for doing it because she had a very strong influence on me, just as a role model.” 

André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira is the Interim Managing Editor of the Denver Catholic and El Pueblo Católico, as well as 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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