Sister Loretta Marie, CSC
(Elizabeth “Betty” Jean Valdes)
March 21, 1931—June 7, 2021
We share news of the death of Sister Loretta Marie (Valdes), CSC, who died at 2:50 p.m. on June 7, 2021, at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Loretta Marie entered the Congregation from Austin, Texas, on August 1, 1948. Her initial profession of vows took place on February 2, 1951.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
A light rain fell on Saint Mary’s on the morning of June 7, 2021. By mid-afternoon, when Sister Loretta Marie died at Saint Mary’s Convent, the heavier rain had lifted, and the sun shone again. Sister Loretta Marie had risen to a new creation and was praising God’s beauty, face to face.
Betty Jean Valdes was described as “a beautiful girl in every way, charming in manner and deeply religious,” according to the recommendation letter from the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Austin, Texas. The 1948 high school graduate, elected “Miss St. Mary’s” because she represented the ideals of her alma mater, was a recent convert though she had lived as a Catholic for some time, having been practically raised by the Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Mary’s Academy in Austin since elementary school. Sister M. Lucy (Abell), CSC, the principal and superior, vouched for Betty Jean as “blessed with a strong faith” and a good candidate for entrance into the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Upon reception of the holy habit on February 2, 1949, the young woman became known as Sister Loretta Marie, a name in honor of the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Loretto, a name she always bore with grace and dignity.
Hattie Marie Bardmess Valdes was Betty Jean’s mother, who gave birth to her in Fort Worth, Texas, March 21, 1931. Mozy Valdes adopted his wife’s daughter. Both Hattie and Mozy ran separate businesses in Austin and were able to provide for Betty Jean’s education and care even after their divorce. Betty Jean was not the first child to be raised by Holy Cross sisters at their academies, which were schools for boarders as well as day students. Sister Lucy continued as a strong influence on Sister Loretta Marie until Sister Lucy’s untimely death in 1964.
From 1951 to 1962, Sister Loretta Marie taught in Catholic elementary schools In New York, Virginia and Maryland. A hearing impairment moved her out of the classroom into medical records administration at Holy Cross hospitals in Silver Spring, Maryland; Anderson, Indiana; and Columbus, Ohio. One of the most significant decisions of Sister Loretta Marie’s life was to leave hospital and Congregation-sponsored ministries. She enrolled at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., to pursue a master’s in counseling for the hearing impaired, “which in turn enabled me to accept my own deafness after avoiding it for 30 years.” She earned her degree in 1983 and thereafter was a counselor, advocate and coordinator at the Shiloh Senior Citizens Center for the Hearing Impaired at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., from 1983 to 1996. From its beginnings in the 19th century, Shiloh had been “the vanguard of uplifting the quality of life for Blacks in the District, such as the teaching of reading and writing to adults during the times of Emancipation.” Sister Loretta Marie brought her skills in the medical-legal field of hospital ministry with her to the Shiloh Senior Center for the Hearing Impaired as well as her sign language skills in an activist church that was moving from social welfare to social change, from direct service to community empowerment. From 1996 to 2015, her ministry was entirely in Washington, D.C., working with Deafpride and Deaf-REACH. Sister retired to the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s in 2015, devoted to a ministry of prayer.
The last two years proved challenging for Sister Loretta Marie, but during her last two weeks she had the prayers of the Congregation around the world. As Sister Joan Marie Steadman, Area coordinator, expressed, “The peaceful presence of her Holy Cross sisters was a comfort as Loretta Marie made her final journey to the arms of our loving and compassionate God.”
Sister Loretta Marie kept a memorial card with a picture of her beloved Sister Lucy, in full habit, sitting by a lily pond. On the reverse side is a poem attributed to Sister Lucy with her signature. The poem is based on Philippians 4:8 and is titled “Whatsoever Things Are Lovely.”
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Lord of all loveliness,
Let their eyes see…
Your majesty in mountains, in the sea,
In storms that shake the earth;
Your constancy in changeless stars;
Your simplicity in a field flower
Or in the clear eyes of a child.
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Lord of all loveliness,
Let their lives hold…
A faith that finds in the dull things of time
The burning beauty of eternity;
A hope that penetrates the clouds of fear
To gaze upon the brightness of Your Face;
And a love that encompasses the whole world
As a small child clasps a treasured toy to its heart.
Sister Loretta Marie now enjoys the burning beauty of eternity with God and all her loved ones.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC