History of the Loretto Academy

Mother Praxedes Arrives

Loretto Tuition Invoice
Academy fees from an undated brochure

1880 brought the arrival of Mother Praxedes Carty to the Academy as the new Mother Superior. Mother Praxedes found that most of the town residents were poor, and that the academy was still unfinished and in debt. Through bazaars, fairs, sales, charging tuition, and bank loans she quickly set about liquidating the debt. Mother Praxedes also used the court system to compel delinquent parents to pay tuition.

Eugene Van Patten
Eugene Van Patten, sued the Sisters in 1886

In 1886 Eugene Van Patten, the local tax assessor, sued the Sisters over a piece of property which he believed was being used for profit rather than for the benefit of the owners and residents of the Academy. The Sisters insisted that the land in question was a garden spot used to grow food for themselves and their boarders. Mother Praxedes testified in court as to the charitable aspects of the Academy, including feeding the poorer students with food from the gardens.

After liquidating the Academy's debt, Mother Praxedes began to improve the grounds of the school and convent. She also made improvements to the curriculum and religious components. Perhaps the most enduring result of Mother Praxedes' efforts was the one that directly contributed to the Las Cruces community: the rebuilding of their beloved Catholic church.

Information based on the thesis The Sisters of Loretto in Las Cruces: The Education and "Americanization" of a Frontier Community, 1870-1943 by Wendy C. Simpson.