Sister Loretta Picucci (Formerly Sister Loretta Joseph)
From the Gospel of Luke 9:46-48:
“An argument arose among them concerning which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me, for the least among all of you is the greatest.’”
Looking back over Loretta’s nearly 60 years as a Sister of Providence, it would seem she saw this scripture as her call … to welcome the least … and perhaps teach them something a little useful along the way, said Sister Marsha Speth in her commentary for Sister Loretta Picucci, formerly Sister Loretta Joseph, who passed away on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 82-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 59 years.
Sister Marsha continued: Loretta Louise Picucci was born on June 23, 1941, in Chicago, to Joseph and Lucy Paoletti Picucci. She had two siblings, a sister Josephine, (who is joining us on livestream) and a brother Peter, who is deceased. Her sister Josie says that Loretta was born six weeks early, so started life off rather frail and thin. While Peter and Josie would be engaged in lively play together, Loretta was happy to pursue her love of reading and study from an early age. She had been attracted to religious life when she was young, but rather than hear people laugh and say, “you’ll get over it,” she would tell others she wanted to be a teacher.
Loretta attended several Catholic elementary schools in Chicago before going to Providence High School, from which she graduated in 1959. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin from Loyola University in 1963, graduating in the Honors Program, which I am told is higher than Summa Cum Laude. Who knew our quiet, unassuming Loretta was such an outstanding scholar! Lest you think Loretta was always studious in college, Josie remembers attending a party with Loretta and her college friends. However, much to Josie’s dismay, she discovered their idea of a party was playing Charades in Latin!
After college, Loretta taught preschool for a year before entering the Sisters of Providence in 1964. She was received into the novitiate on August 15, 1965, pronounced first vows on that same date in 1967, and made her perpetual profession on April 24, 1976. Her religious name for several years was Sister Loretta Joseph, until she chose to return to her baptismal name, Sister Loretta.
Loretta welcomed many of God’s little ones over her 14 years in primary grade teaching beginning in 1967 at the Village School at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, followed by years in Downers Grove, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis, ending with two years as director of St. Columbkille Day Nursery in Chicago from 1981-83. It was here that she earned certification as a food service manager.
In 1983, she courageously began outreach ministry with the Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Tunica, Mississippi, one of the poorest areas of a notably poor state. After eight years in Tunica, she responded to a need for a cook at Providence Retirement Home in New Albany and then five years as a Family Care Aide in Chicago.
In 1999, she left the Midwest, answering a call to serve as an English as a Second Language Instructor for four years in south central Los Angeles. Her final 14 years of ministry were with Providence in the Desert and the Hispanic Community in Coachella, California. Loretta returned to the Motherhouse in 2018, residing in Providence Hall and later in Mother Theodore Hall, until her death earlier this month.
Loretta’s ministry provides ample evidence of her attraction with those whom society often overlooks, the little ones, the poor, women, the elderly, the immigrant. Notably a quiet person, she wasn’t shy when she saw an injustice and a need to advocate for another. Even during her days in Healthcare, she would speak up if she saw someone in need of assistance.
While Loretta was known to have a very poor sense of direction, she never let that hold her back from getting to where she was needed even if she got lost a few times on the way. She had an adventurous spirit and enjoyed accompanying her friends, Sisters Cathy White or later Carol Nolan in exploring the sights and enjoying the foods in southern California.
Loretta had an artistic side that came out in her choice of colorful dresses, scarves and unusual dangling earrings. She taught sewing to the women of Tunica who produced beautiful items to be sold. In 1992, while on sabbatical she learned to weave. This provided another outlet for her creativity and she carried her beloved loom to all her subsequent missions.
Her enjoyment of cooking was well known even from Novitiate days. A band member, Sister Carole Fedders, recalls Loretta being asked during their Novitiate year to fill in for the Novitiate cook for a period of time. Now cooking for a family, even an Italian one, was hardly preparation for preparing three hot meals for 150 young women. However, despite her slow deliberate pace, her assistant, Sister Carole, reports the meal was always ready on time! Her speed of life could cause of bit of anxiety for those of us who operate differently, but it never or seldom, kept Loretta from accomplishing the tasks at hand.
However, there was at least one Sister who witnessed Loretta move at a different speed. Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp remembers being with Loretta late one night in the community room of Maternity BVM Convent. Jeanne spotted a mouse on the radiator directly behind Loretta’s chair. Jeanne quietly informed Loretta, who jumped out of her chair with a swiftness seldom seen by anyone!
The California Providence Associates and the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Alumni fondly remember Loretta’s supportive presence along with Sister Carol Nolan, at many gatherings some of which they hosted at their home in Coachella.
While Loretta’s college Spanish was pretty rusty when she began ministry in California, she grew beautifully in her ability to communicate with those she served. She became a beloved “Hermana” to the parishioners and to so many immigrant women and children.
Clearly Loretta faithfully lived her call to religious life and her personal charism of teaching. Her modest, attentive presence, her welcoming smile and her quiet passion for justice helped all who met her feel at home. Even her pace of life invited one to slow down and be in the moment. She accepted people for who they were and life on its own terms. When opportunities to serve, no matter how humble, arose her response echoed a line from our band prayer: “Where else can we go Lord, you have the words of life.”
As she reached out and welcomed so many others in her life of service, we have no doubt she is welcomed now into the arms of her Beloved, Provident God, who says to her, “Loretta, YOU are one of the greatest among all!”
Funeral services for Sister Loretta took place on Monday, November 20, and Tuesday, November 21, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Monday, November 20. Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, November 21.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Loretta to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Loretta in the comment section below.
Sister Loretta Picucci (Formerly Sister Loretta Joseph)
In Indiana – Teacher, Juniorate and Village School, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village (1967-68); Teacher, Holy Cross, Indianapolis (1977-81); Cook, Providence Retirement Home, New Albany (1991-92); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2020-23).
In Washington, D.C.: Teacher, Dunblane (1968-70).
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Mel, Chicago (1972-77); Assistant Director, St. Columbkille Day Nursery, Chicago (1981-83); Family Care Aide, Family Care Services, Chicago (1994-99).
In California: Teacher, South Central Los Angeles Ministry Project (1999-2003); Teacher, Providence in the Desert, Indio (2003-04); Hispanic Ministry, Providence in the Desert, Coachella (2004-18).
In Mississippi: Outreach Service Minister, Sacred Heart Mission, Tunica (1983-91).
Donate in her honor
Has this sister made a difference in your life? Help continue the mission.
At this time, our site contains all Sisters of Providence obituaries beginning in 2009.
Looking for a sister?
Find her here! Photos, articles, obituaries of sisters you have known and loved.