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Sister Loretta Picucci

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Sister Loretta Picucci

Current ministry: English as a new language teacher, Providence in the Desert, Coachella, California

My good friend says I’m  … a good listener, compassionate, helpful

My favorite thing about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is … it’s atmosphere of peace and prayer

When I am not at work or involved in ministry, you are most likely to find me … in the kitchen baking or in the living room reading.

On weekends I love to … attend one of the many art or cultural fairs which Coachella has or go window shopping at boutiques or small shops that specialize in beautiful  objects.

I am passionate about … the social injustices in our country that leave so many people homeless, without enough food and with no health care.

One thing most people don’t know about me is … I enjoy camping.

My biggest pet peeve is … people being negative about and denigrating the poor and vulnerable.

Sister Loretta and her class of more advanced English speakers have lots of fun in this class that meets in Salton City.

Sister Loretta and her class of more advanced English speakers have lots of fun in this class that meets in Salton City.

Sister Loretta Picucci is passionate about serving people on the margins. People who are economically poor. People whose struggles are overlooked by society.

Her 51 years as a Sister of Providence have allowed her to live out that passion.

Sister Loretta explains that growing up in Catholic schools, she, like many others of her era, decided as a little girl that she wanted to be a sister when she grew up. Unlike many of the others, that desire never left her.

“The struggle I had was that I had wanted to do this for so long, that I didn’t know how to understand if it was God calling me or if it was just that I had this daydream all my life,” she said.

So she attended college four years and taught a year in a Catholic school before she entered the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

“The only way to resolve the struggle was to try it. And I wouldn’t be happy unless I at least tried it, so I did, finally,” Sister Loretta said.

She found that life as a sister allowed her to be her truest self.

Sister Loretta spent 15 years teaching early elementary school children. She always requested to go to areas where the people were impoverished or underserved. She then spent eight years ministering with the home missions in Tunica, Mississippi, where she reached out to people who were isolated, often due to race and economics.

Eventually Sister Loretta put her college Spanish classes to use as a teacher of English as a new language in Los Angeles.

For the past 12 years, Sister Loretta has ministered with Providence in the Desert, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence in southern California’s Coachella Valley.

In the desert

Sister Loretta spends quite a bit of time in her car. She travels to the remote areas where her students live in order to make learning English accessible to them.

Sister Loretta spends quite a bit of time in her car. She travels to the remote areas where her students live in order to make learning English accessible to them.

“Basically the ministry is teaching English to the immigrants in the far part of the valley where they do not have as many services as they do in other places, or the services are distant from them and the people themselves either can’t or are not able to travel the distances to get the help that they need. So instead we go down and teach them,” she said.

They mostly teach adults, she explains. But often students have their children with them.

“There are some times when I am teaching English, and I can teach songs in English for the parents to use with the children. If the children are there they learn it right along with the parents. With my years of teaching primary grades, it comes naturally to me to relate to the children,” she said.

Her favorite part of her ministry is just being with the students.

“I can be tired and not even want to go to the class. But once I’m there with them, it’s all fine. It’s wonderful. We have fun in class. I think that they enjoy the class, and I surely enjoy them,” she said of her students.

She can see that the ministry is making a difference.

The people she works with are often struggling. Most are immigrant field laborers. They often live in remote trailer homes. They are working to make a better life for themselves and their children.

“If they learn English, they have a better chance of fitting in in this country and getting ahead. And their idea of getting ahead is not to be rich. Their idea of getting ahead is to provide for their children and to have their children have a better life than they are. Of course they would like to get out of the trailer parks where they are. But they do not have dreams of being wealthy. They want their children to be able to get through school, and they want their kids’ lives to be full lives lived to their full potential.”

Creating hope

Sister Loretta, at right, teaches English to adult students in Thermal, California, as part of her ministry with Providence in the Desert.

Sister Loretta, at right, teaches English to adult students in Thermal, California, as part of her ministry with Providence in the Desert.

“I think what we do creates hope, because it gives them confidence in themselves. It gives them confidence that they can learn. They find out that they can learn the language, but they also find out that even when they make mistakes, they are learning, so it’s OK to keep trying. I think it also gives them confidence because they learn that they can relate to people other than just those in their family or their working partners. They feel comfortable talking to us, so they can feel comfortable talking to others.”

Sister Loretta said it hurts to watch her students face prejudice and discrimination.

“They’ve come to know that we care for them, and I think that’s helpful for them to expand their vision of people,” she said.

Sister Loretta finds her work fulfilling.

“There is no place now that I would rather be than here. In most of where I have ministered, I’ve been happy with my ministry. But I can say this is the happiest ministry that I’ve had. And I would not at this point want to be anywhere else.

“If you want to talk about what being a Sister of Providence has done to make me be this happy, it is that I grew as a result of being a sister. I used to be very, very timid. I’m still kind of shy until I know people,” she said.

But she is freer now.

“I am also freer in the way I think about God and the Church. I would not have grown the same way had I not been part of the Sisters of Providence.”

Sister Loretta on her ministry at Providence in the Desert in southern California

Sister Loretta on prayer

Sister Loretta's Favorites

Least favorite subject in school: philosophy

Favorite movie: Keys of the Kingdom

Favorite hobby:  finding new recipes, trying them out and sharing the results

Favorite book: The Scarlet Letter

Favorite saint: St. Joseph

Favorite hero/heroine: Oscar Romero/ 4 martyred church women

Favorite childhood activity: playing family games, especially on the holidays

Least favorite food: okra

Favorite pizza topping: Italian sausage

Favorite course in school: foreign languages: Latin or Spanish

Favorite form of prayer: meditating on Scriptures

Favorite recreation: being with friends

Favorite quote: “Where else can we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.”

Favorite TV program: Scorpion

Favorite music: folk music

Favorite song: A Vucchella sung by Enrico Caruso or Luciano Pavarotti

Favorite dessert: Chocolate fudge cake or Italian Easter Ricotta Cheese Torte

Favorite scripture passage: the story of Emmaus

Favorite author: Graham Green

Favorite time of day: dusk

Favorite season: autumn in the midwest

Favorite vacation spot: Ozark cultural center in Mountain View, Arkansas

Contact Sister Loretta: srlorettasp@hotmail.com

 

 

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Mission Advancement office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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2 Comments

  1. S. Paula Damiano on October 21, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Your ministry is wonderful and makes me proud to be a sister with you! Thanks.

  2. Diane Stepro on November 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    In a world where many people judge others by their wealth (or lack of it), I am so glad that Sisters of Providence continue to stand with the humble.

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