Friday, December 5, 2008

Flashback Friday: Vacations at Mt. Loretto

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the majority of you reading this didn't spend your vacation every year in a large convent full of nuns. I have to say I feel a bit sorry for you, because we did and it was fantastic.

Every fall my mom, Grandma Rita and all six of us kids would load up into the station wagon and make the long trek across the state to Dubuque, where the Mother House (Mt. Loretto) is located. My dad and my Grandpa Gerald would be following in the pickup hauling behind it a hog roaster and a freshly butchered hog to feed the nuns.

I can hear you laughing in disbelief... but I'm serious. And I have the photos to prove it.

My Aunt Janella was a PBVM (Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and she was living at Mt. Loretto at the time, so this was our chance to visit her and spend some time with all of the Sisters. And let me tell you, we had the run of the place. When I was little one of the nuns would offer to take me for my nap (usually Sr. Raeleen), and instead of laying down we'd sneak to the craft room and paint figurines or sculpt clay or make all sorts of fun little art projects. We'd play hide and seek and ride the elevators and have sing-along sessions. I like to think of it as my own little version of sleep away camp, only my parents were there, too.

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As you can see, they tried to groom me early for religious life (1976)

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Me at age 3, just trying to be helpful...

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Back: Grandma Rita, Sr. Joy (I think that's her name), Laura, Mom
Front: Steve, Janella, Me, Jim, Janette (Honestly, I mainly included this photo because I think it shows that Steve totally fits his nickname, Hoody. Doesn't he look like a "Hoody" in this photo?)

The facilities at Mt. Loretto were so much fun. They had a gymnasium where we could run around and play volleyball or basketball, and it's where I first learned of wolleyball, which is like volleyball but the ball remains in play off the wall.

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In the gym, working on my dream of being the next Mary Lou Retton.

One of my favorite things to do during the week was hang out with Sr. Stephen. I would help her clean the chapel and dust the pews, and then we would go into a separate room where they made their own hosts. The communion host would come in a large, flat sheet and we would have little hand punchers that would punch out the hosts into little circles with a cross pressed into the middle. (Much like scrapbook punches, now that I think about it.)

After we would finish making the hosts we would put the leftover scraps into a bag and walk down to the lake, get in the rowboat and feed the ducks. It was always so quiet and peaceful out on the water, and we were always there during the fall of the year so the air was crisp and the trees would have turned their mighty colors. It was a perfect example of work and reward... showing me that at the end of the day, the scraps we're left with can become something that can still nourish.

And the main event of the week: the hog roast.

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This particular year we were there on Halloween, and some of the nuns helped me with my costume to trick or treat. FYI: lipstick stains your cheeks and it doesn't come off for days. Trust me.

During one night of our stay, there would be a celebration with all of the nuns... we'd roast a hog and gather in the dining hall for a feast. And for entertainment? The six of us kids would at some point get up to the microphone and sing for everyone. Yes, we were the Von Trapp family without the fear of German invasion.

Our best song was, "O Lord, It's Hard to be Humble" and we sang it with enthusiasm. Because the microphone was raised up higher on the stand and I was so much shorter than everyone else, Sr. Martin would take the microphone after we sang and bring it to my level to see if there was anything I would like to say since I couldn't reach.

Foolish woman. Of course I had something to say. It was usually my standard joke that I told at my grandparents' card parties about the Lazy Family that was too tired to go out and see what was wrong with the dog (you have to hear it to fully appreciate it)... and since then I've never met a microphone I didn't like.

So, we were unorthodox. We didn't go to Disneyland. But we had more fun, more life experiences and more fulfilling moments on our trips to Mt. Loretto than most people could hope for. And I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world.


  1. This is wonderful. How amazing your parents are to have been so giving. As one of the 5 people in the entire world that doesn't like Disney, I can honestly say, I'd rather have gone with your clan to Mt. Loretto!
    Blessings today...I love the pictures of your family.

  2. What a fun trip down memory lane! It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood~

  3. you fed the body of Jesus to the ducks? there's gonna be hell to pay...

    :) seriously, i think it's crazy fun that this was childhood family vacations for you!

  4. Thanks for inviting us into your past. I love the pig!

  5. "Sister" Sara is suddenly taking on a whole new meaning. LOL. Seriously, "The Sound of Music", is one of my all time fave movies! Considering we didn't take any kind of family vacations, what paradise this would have been.

    (In college I made up for the lack of travel and even got to do a "Sound of Music" tour of the places in Austria where they shot the film. Still crossing my fingers for a scanner for Christmas so I can share.)

    Love the photos!

  6. what fun! I could see how a vacation spent there could be a blast. Seriously. Thanks for sharing ;0)

  7. Who we spend our vacation with can be more important than where we go.

    It is great to read about what a good time you had on vacation with your family.

    Where do you think Riley might want to go. :)

  8. You're NOT SERIOUSLY considering not telling the joke, are you?

    I have to hear it now!

  9. This is MUCH better than Disney ... all your memories are dependent on YOU and YOUR FAMILY and how you all interacted. Not some goober in a mouse suit. LOL

    I think it's wonderful, and I'm having to repent of envy at the moment, because we didn't really have anything like that growing up. A couple of vacations, but nothing TRADITIONAL. You are so blessed, Sara, and I thank you once again for sharing your experiences with us! :)

  10. what wonderful memories. I am really enjoying Flashback Fridays!

  11. Ok. Seriously? This is all like something out of the twilight zone...
    nuns. pigs. singing strange songs. wow

  12. janette looks like shes posing for a male underwear ad.

    i eat pig. i just dont want to see it like that.

    "never met a microphone i didnt like"


  13. My children went to Catholic school, the sister there, Sister Kay was a gem. I can only imagine being there with all of them, I am sure it was the highlight of the year. I think I would have passed on Disney as well.

    I smiled about the ducks....

  14. 13 comments before me and you still haven't told the joke? What's up with that, sister?

    I am loving the photos. You look so cute in that habit. Is habit right when you're only wearing the head covering?

    I will be waiting for the joke. I need to hear about the lazy family.

  15. hello! it appears we have many many mutual blog friends..looks like we run in the same circle :) love your blog :)