DENVER (KDVR) – On Friday, the last three graves of 62 Catholic nuns who were part of the Loretto Community were exhumed from the Loretto Heights campus to be relocated.
The decision was made by the Archdiocese of Denver as it was looking for a more permanent location that would be suitable for generations to come.
“The bigger issue for us was our ability to protect them into perpetuity, kind of recognizing how important they are,” Gary Schaaf, executive director of Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, said.
These 62 Sisters of Loretto were laid to rest from 1896 to the 1960s.
Sister Eutropia Toolen, Sister Carmela Hodapp and Sister Agatha Wall’s remains were meticulously removed by archaeologists, anthropologists and volunteers.
“In this case, what is really unique for me here is that we have their names. We know exactly who we are excavating at any one point,” University of Colorado assistant professor of anthropology Lauren Hosek said.
To Catholics, this site is sacred and the way this process took place was important to Sister Mary Nell, who is a sister of Loretto herself.
“Some of them have been here you know for more than 110 years, 120 years. They have been here so their spirits are part of this earth,” Nell said.
After the remains and artifacts have all been removed, they will be sent to a new, permanent home at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery.
“In really kind of the most prominent spot at Mount Olivet,” Schaaf said. “Honored right next to where our archdiocese priests are, you know, into perpetuity.”
Hosek says her experience in this process has been incredible.
“I was holding someone’s skull as I was very carefully moving it out and she said, this was a classics instructor, she worked in a bakery, and it’s just incredible to see that level of personal connection,” Hosek told FOX31.
The Sisters of Loretto took an oath of poverty and died without a penny, but those who knew them said what they did for others is priceless.