“Loving, thoughtful … a faithful friend” --Sister Rita Moriarty
“I have known Loretta since I was a child. She was the epitome of love. She always made me feel like I was perfect! Loretta was beautiful ... deep down to her soul.”
—Sister Anna Kerns
Lawrence and Loretta (Callahan) Costa of Athens, Georgia, welcomed their first child, Mary Elizabeth, on September 28, 1923. She remembers her time growing up with younger siblings, Theresa, Fran and Jerry as being happy. Her education began at a private school, but she was enrolled in public school for a year when her family lost their business. Seventh grade through her sophomore year of school, she attended a boarding school run by the Sisters of Mercy. Not quite 16, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 18, 1939, receiving the habit and the name Sister Loretta Joseph on March 19, 1940. She graduated from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota (1961), with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. A master’s degree in sociology was earned at St. Louis University (1970.)
Sister Loretta began teaching in Georgia elementary schools: Sacred Heart, Savannah (1942); St. Francis Xavier, Brunswick (1949-50, 1956-57, 1960-66); St. John the Evangelist, Valdosta (1950); Sacred Heart, Milledgeville (1954); St. Anthony, Atlanta (1957); and St. Mary on the Hill, Augusta (1966). Next was Holy Cross in Champaign, Illinois, as principal and teacher (1967), then principal at St. Luke the Evangelist in St. Louis (1975).
Sister Loretta served in leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph as regional superior and provincial councilor (1977-1984). Following this, Sister Loretta returned to Georgia to be the purchasing agent/dietitian at the Village of St. Joseph in Atlanta. Sister Loretta spent sabbatical time at Mount St. Joseph College in St. Joseph, Ohio (1987). She was then a geriatric care administrator, first at St. Thomas Personal Care Home in East Point, Georgia (1988), followed by St. Teresa Manor in Riverdale (1989).
Sister Loretta was development coordinator for the Atlanta Archdiocesan School Office (1990), and afterward, regional development director for Southern Regional Development in Decatur (1993). In 1998, Sister Loretta volunteered as a reader for the blind at Georgia Radio Reading Service, Inc. in Atlanta until she retired in 2006. In 2013, she moved to St. Louis to carry out her ministry of prayer and witness, residing at Nazareth Living Center until she moved to Laclede Groves Senior Living (2017).
Flannery O’Connor, a great American storyteller, took piano lessons from Sister Loretta who, over the years of their friendship, also edited several of Flannery's books.
Associate Allen J. Grieve remembers Sister Loretta as “so loving, and so devoted to inspiring others, lifting their spirits, and strengthening their faith.” During his recovery from an accident, Sister Loretta sent him over 120 cards! “And she got her money's worth ... there was no blank space on any card ... but lots of encouragement, prayers, suggestions, and a tremendous amount of love ..."
When Sister Charleen Bloom arrived at the University of Illinois "knowing no one,” S. Loretta, superior/principal at Holy Cross, “reached out to the Albany CSJ on campus” changing her life as a “student, religious, and person ..." Sister Loretta’s “warmth, hospitality, thoughtfulness, generosity and humor enriched and enlivened” her study time—and the 51 years since.
Fourth grader Sister Laura Anna Grady met Sister Loretta in Savannah, Georgia. She recalls that the whole parish “loved her beautiful smile and cheerful greeting.”
At Nazareth, Sister Loretta joined the Medaille I Community ... She embraced association ... with all of her warm, loving and charming Southern heart. Once I called her and said, 'I'm driving down to Carondelet ... I need someone to ride shotgun. Are you available?' 'You bet I'm available,' she said with delight. And ever since then, she was my "shotgun" ... Memories of those little trips ... will always bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face ... —Associate Cathy Hart
Helen Oates, CSJ