Established in 1812 in Hardin’s Creek, Kentucky, the Sisters of Loretto were the first religious order in the United States that had no foreign affiliation. Under the direction of Father Charles Nernickx, the Sisters of Loretto were the first religious order to bring Catholic Education into the American West.
Their presence in El Paso began when the sisters arrived in our neighbor city, Las Cruces, New Mexico where the first Loretto Academy was opened in 1870. Nine years later, the Sisters of Loretto arrived at San Elizario, where they opened St. Joseph’s Academy boarding and day school for girls. The city of El Paso started growing tremendously with the arrival of the railroad. In 1892, they relocated St. Joseph’s to its current location in central El Paso. Mother Praxades, the Superior, envisioned a college for women in the El Paso/Juarez community. She dreamed of an academy that would extend its arms to all cultures and ethnicities.
In 1921, against the advice of Bishop Schuler, Mother Praxades bought 19 ½ acres of desert land in the Austin Terrace. Bishop Schuler told Mother Praxades, “If you succeed in building here, I’ll say you are the special child of our Divine Lord.” Joseph Morgan and Gus Trost, from the famous “Trost and Trost” architecture firm were chosen to design and construct the school. Mother Praxades asked that the Academy’s wings extend with “open arms”, welcoming members from Mexico, New Mexico, and the El Paso community in a warm embrace.
In 1922, the first classes were held in the building on the corner of Trowbridge and Hardaway, where the Sisters and boarders temporarily lived while the Academy was being built. The following year, in 1923, the school opened its doors for the enrollment of 186 students, 20 of whom were boarders. Bedridden Mother Praxades continued directing the construction of the school until her passing in 1933.
Through the years, Loretto has continued to grow. By 1948, the Academy had a kindergarten band, a full student orchestra, drama classes, a domestic arts department, several tennis and basketball courts, and even offered horseback riding classes. The Sisters taught French, Spanish, Latin, dance, voice, violin, and piano. By 1957, the school grounds expanded. The school’s gymnasium (Hilton-Young Hall), the cafeteria (Guadalupe Hall), an outdoor pool, and the elementary school building were inaugurated. In 1968, the Ginger Gurss Dance Studio was built, and in 1975, the Karam-Peticolas Playing Field, the outdoor field, was built.
Today, with your support, Loretto Academy continues to grow in its tradition of excellence and continues educating today’s youth, producing leaders in the community and nation. Loretto now offers Advanced Placement courses, robotics, theater, dance, art, speech and debate, and clubs and organizations that help our students build confidence and character. Loretto Academy was built for the love and purpose of teaching, in celebration of the mission of the Sisters of Loretto and continues as such today.
Learn more about Loretto Academy’s history by checking out highlights and featured moments on the Digital Information Gateway in El Paso (DIGIE) managed by the El Paso Museum of History. DIGIE is a collection of images and videos exploring El Paso’s past and present.
With your support, we can continue educating young leaders, make our school more inclusive with the addition of an elevator, support more students with tuition assistance, retain and attract highly-qualified educators, and maintain and improve our school grounds.Donate Today!