Educator, Researcher, Leader Dies at 91
She was born Oct. 27, 1925 in Wichita, Kan., to Frederick and Rose (Freund) Gegen, the second of five children.
Loretta entered the Wichita ASC congregation on Sept. 5, 1943, professed first vows July 1, 1945, and her permanent vows five years later.
She taught at Catholic schools in Olmitz, Offerle and Plains, Kan., from 1945 to 1954, while pursuing her own education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan., in 1954.
She later taught English for three years at Sacred Heart Academy in Wichita.
She resumed studies in the late 1950s at Saint Louis University, where she earned a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in administration. She spent five months in Brazil, as part of her doctoral research, observing living conditions in villages in the Amazon River jungle and researching the effect of the Adorers’ then-12 year mission in the area. The resulting book, “Amazonia,” won second prize for “Best Book of 1963” of Pageant Press in New York.
The experience would cultivate a life-long love of languages and cultures. She was fluent in Italian and could read German, French, Spanish and Portuguese, and had visited each of the 22 countries on six continents where sisters in her Adorer community lived. She wrote or translated from Italian 12 books about the Adorers, which started in Italy.
In the 1960s, Sister Loretta was dean of the education department at Newman University and supervised schools for the Diocese of Oklahoma City, Okla., for five years, and taught for a year at the University of Oklahoma. She taught education and sociology at Newman from 1971 to ’75, and served in her community’s government, both in Wichita and Rome. She returned to Oklahoma City to serve as diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools from 1979 to ’81, and as its director of Christian education, Catholic schools and pastoral programs throughout the 1980s. In 1990, the Oklahoma City Archdiocese named her Educator of the Decade.
She went on sabbatical to earn another degree, a master’s in religious studies, from Gonzaga University in 1991, before tackling her last assignment in active ministry as vice chancellor of strategic planning and leadership formation for the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan., from 1991 to 1998.
After retiring to the ASC Wichita Center in 1998, she was a volunteer researcher, writer, and resource person.
Her parents, her brother, Fred, and her sister, Edith, preceded her in death. Her sister, Phyllis, her brother, Don, and their nieces, nephews and spouses, survive her, as does her ASC community.
Sister Loretta’s body will be welcomed at 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23 to the Wichita Center followed by a wake service at 7 p.m. Father Tom Welk, CPPS will preside at the Mass of Resurrection at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24.