100 years of Loretto Academy

Girls stand next to a sign pointing to the newly built Loretto Academy in 1923. The academy was originally for both boarding students and day students. Photo courtesy of Loretto Academy

Girls stand next to a sign pointing to the newly built Loretto Academy in 1923. The academy was originally for both boarding students and day students. Photo courtesy of Loretto Academy

Located at the corner of Trowbridge and Hardaway, Loretto Academy first opened its doors to 186 students in 1923. 

The school was founded by Mother Praxedes, who purchased nineteen and a half acres of land to open a college for women living in the El Paso, Mexico, and New Mexico community.

 Since 1923, Loretto has grown its tradition of excellence tremendously through the Four Core Values of Faith, Community, Justice, and Respect. 

In recent years, those values have been exemplified by the number of service hours Loretto girls spend helping the local community.

Loretto has created a strong sense of community in each student and they have developed a stable sisterhood as the years go by.

Loretto truly embodies a tradition of excellence with their academics seeing as how the graduating class of 2022 earned over $30,000,000 in scholarships.

As Loretto’s centennial anniversary approaches in 2023, the Loretto community is preparing to honor the Sisters of Loretto and the traditions upon which the school was built. 

Loretto alumnae

Whether they graduated 80 years ago or two years ago, Loretto graduates can all agree: once an angel, always an angel. 

Some Loretto angels have gone above and beyond in making a name for themselves and succeeded in inspiring underclassmen to aim high.

Amirah Kasseem, class of 2005, has built an empire in the baking industry, beginning with her founding of the FLOUR SHOP, which has drawn A-list clients and designer brands. 

She is a best-selling author of The Power of Sprinkles: A Cake Book and the Magical Land of Birthdays.

She is also a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA and collaborated with Vans for a shoes and clothing line.

Amirah Kassem poses for a Williams Sonoma advertisement. Shoppers can find items such as cake decorations and bakeware as part of Kassem’s line at Williams Sonoma. Photo courtesy of Williams Sonoma

United States House of Representative for Texas, Veronica Escobar, also attended Loretto but graduated from Burges High School.

She is an avid, vocal advocate for expanding healthcare access, finding solutions to climate change, creating new job opportunities, and making border communities a safer place for immigrants.

Veronica Escobar serves Texas’ 16th Congressional District in El Paso. Escobar attended Loretto Academy and graduated from Burges High School. Photo courtesy of Veronica Escobar

Estefania Seyffert, class of 2012, is an investigative reporter for KFOX14 and CBS4 who is best known for her stories on the El Paso community.

Seyffert makes an annual visit to her alma mater to inspire young journalists from the professional experiences she’s acquired.

Estefania Seyffert gives the El Paso community a voice through her investigative reporting. Seyffert makes it a point to give back to her alma mater by sharing her experiences with young journalists.

Through Loretto’s unique traditions, former, current, and future students are able to share long-lasting memories that symbolize the ever-growing sisterhood.

Rose Marie Porter Baumann, class of 1957, recalls being a boarding student at Loretto.

Baumann said, “…The Sisters arranged for us to attend cultural events such as The Opera. 

Lessons in voice, piano, and dance were enhanced. 

We sang like angels in chapel and out- We performed in both operettas and plays…”

Loretto alum Rose Marie Porter Baumann at Loretto Academy. Baumann was a boarding student, before Loretto’s boarding school closed in 1974. Photo courtesy of El Paso Museum of History

Former Editor-in-Chief for The Prax, Margaret Zumr, class of 1963, spoke about the Sisters of Loretto.

Zumr said, “…How does a group of women who, in the mid-1800s, traveled west from

Kentucky walking and in wagons start so many schools along the way? 

They had dedication, caring, and courage.

They inspired so many of us to have those same qualities and develop a vision of who we could be…”

Sylvia Borunda Firth, class of 1977, attended Loretto from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Firth said, “…The Sisters of Loretto always stressed the obligation to be of service to our community. 

The Loretto value of being a servant leader has played a pivotal role in my life…”

Students at Loretto Academy graduated in May 1977. Loretto’s chapel, constructed by Trost & Trost in 1924, still stands today. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Holt on Pinterest

Christine Peschka-Santillan, class of 95, remembers everything from her kindergarten classroom to her graduation from Loretto. 

 Peschka-Santillan said, “…Everywhere I have gone in life I have tried to embody the idea of service to others.

 I feel so blessed that my only daughter was given the opportunity to graduate this Spring from Loretto.

 I am eternally grateful for the lessons that she learned…”

Her daughter, Reilly Peschka-Santillan, graduated this year as part of the class of 2022.

Siobhan Payne, class of 1999, holds her memories of Loretto close to her heart. 

Payne said, “…Loretto had shaped me into the woman I have become today. 

Loretto is where I learned how to use my voice and where great teachers like Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Lockhart believed in me, gave me confidence, and made me believe in myself…”

The graduating class of 1999 attends their senior retreat. The retreat is typically held at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Angelica Hernandez

Luci Rodriguez, whose mother graduated in 1970 and sister graduated in 1998, carried on a family legacy when she graduated in 2006. 

Rodriguez said, “…Loretto as a whole prepared me for college and beyond. 

I still find myself adjusting my mindset to Ms. Ingle’s female empowerment stories, and my love of science was nurtured by the greats: Sanchez, Judd, and Baca.

 I wouldn’t be who I am today without Loretto. 

Returning still feels like home to me and I think that’s what makes Loretto unique…”

These graduates worked hard to get where they are now, and all of them are extraordinary examples of what it means to be a strong and intelligent Loretto woman.

Upcoming activities

In preparation for Loretto’s centennial, a centennial celebration committee is organizing activities such as campus tours, monthly gatherings, and a gala. 

Advancement & Alumnae Director of Loretto Academy, Katie Martinez, class of 2006, was a member of The Prax in high school. 

Martinez said, “Centennial celebrations will officially begin with the Class of 2023’s graduation and will end in April 2024 with a mass in the Chapel.”

As the 2022-2023 school year approaches, the Loretto community will build upon the century-long traditions and values in celebration of the mission of the Sisters of Loretto.