Each Spring edition of the Presentation Sisters’ alumnae newsletter, Presentation News, includes an announcement of a generous gift to the Sisters from the Loretto Friends Annual Luncheon. Who are the Loretto Friends, and what is this annual event?
The Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco taught at Our Lady of Loretto High School from 1949 to 1974. The all-girl school, with an enrollment of about 400 students, was in the west area of downtown Los Angeles. It was the type of school where you made friends for life and absorbed the Catholic spirit of education that changed you for the better, alumnae say. After the Sisters of the Presentation left in 1974, several of the alumnae did not want to lose the friendships made at Loretto.
Stella Bruni ’57, Rosalie Cabrera ’56, and Rosemary Delgado ’57 got together to do something about that. They formed a small group, discussing among themselves, “How can we stay in contact with one another?” Stella had the idea to have a luncheon and invite alumnae friends they knew.
It started out in a small banquet room at a local restaurant, an unofficial alumnae gathering of fifteen women. Over the next few years, the luncheon grew bigger and bigger, with more alumnae in attendance. They began to bring their mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, and friends. Eventually they moved to the Quiet Cannon banquet hall in Montebello to accommodate the larger event, which now included a fashion show, a DJ, vendors, and raffles – all raising funds to send to the Sisters. From the beginning conversations, the founders always intended this event to serve a double purpose: sustaining the Loretto alumnae sense of community and helping the Sisters. It was not intended to be a “reunion,” but a way to stay connected.
There were themes for the annual event, from fun decades like the 1950s and 1970s to ‘Lunch at Tiffany’s’ with everyone wearing a little black dress. Susie Cruz ’76 from Susie’s Boutique volunteered numerous hours providing the fashion show portion of the event, with other Our Lady of Loretto alumnae also contributing significant time and other resources over the years. Models were alumnae and family, walking the runway. Also in the 1990s they held a Day at the Races at the Santa Anita Race Track – not for the betting, but to raise funds. (Well, maybe a little of both.)
Fast forward to 2013, when the founders from the 1950s alumnae felt it was time to turn over the event to the next generation. The class of 1974 accepted the invitation, as they deemed the annual luncheon and fashion show an important event for a worthy cause and felt that it had to continue, not only for the treasured friendships and community but also for the help it provided to the Sisters.
The luncheon committee of Rosalie Cabrera ’56, Rosemarie Ramirez ’56, Dolores Weidemann ’56, Virginia Ashworth ’58, and Rosemarie Witten ’58, turned over the responsibility to Martha Manriquez ’74, Mary Sanchez ’74, Bertha Flores ’72, Margaret Ochoa ’74, Yolanda Santillan ’74, Ana/Maritza Leon ’74, JoAnn Sifuentes ’74, Pat Diaz ’74, and Kathey Sias ’74. Rosalie Cabrera ’56 also continued to participate.
|The founding-era luncheon committee||The 1970s-era committee|
The new committee, mostly from the class of 1974, operated in a more formal way, but this did not diminish the fun and creativeness of the event. The Loretto Friends of the Presentation Sisters Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show became a non-profit organization. A board of directors was formed, bringing their energy and creative talents for the future.
In 2019, the last in-person luncheon prior to COVID, over 350 guests participated. In 2020 it was cancelled due to the pandemic lockdown; in 2021 and in 2022 a fundraising campaign was mailed to all the Loretto Friends of the Presentation Sisters, including all alumnae. A decision has not been made about 2023, so stay tuned!
What did Stella, Rosemary, and Rosalie start with their conversations after the school closed, and what is their legacy? The luncheons have been keeping Loretto alumnae connected for decades, making possible untold connections and friendships. In addition, it is estimated that this event has raised over $350,000 for the Sisters of the Presentation San Francisco during that time. The funds have been used to help ministries such as SafeHouse (serving women victimized by human trafficking in San Francisco); improvements to the Care Center on the 3rd Floor at the Motherhouse; projects at Presentation Center in Los Gatos; and most recently the General Fund, where gifts can be distributed where most needed.
Thank you to all the committee members and luncheon attendees. You have brought joy not only to those in the banquet halls for many years, but to the Sisters of the Presentation, as well!
By Nanette Miller, Presentation Associate
Rosalie Cabrera ‘56 and Yolanda Santillan ’74, Presentation Associates, contributed to this article.
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