S. Loretto Burke (far right)

Artistic Expressions – S. Loretto Burke (1922-)

Born in 1922 in Ripley, West Virginia, S. Loretto Burke was just 5 years old when she went to her big sister’s piano lesson and came home, sat down and played the lesson. She entered the Sisters of Charity in 1939, and was inspired by S. Agnes Eppley to pursue a ministry in music which she began at St. Lawrence, Cincinnati, in 1942, and continued in New Mexico and throughout Ohio. Her ministry of music at the College of Mount St. Joseph, where she served as teacher, department chair, assistant dean and director of institutional research, spanned 28 years. It was during her years of teaching music that S. Loretto was encouraged to attend The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in musical education. There her true passion and gifts were nurtured. She began to compose; at the same time Elizabeth Seton was beatified and up for canonization, and she found her inspiration there. She began to write a cantata that would look at key moments in Elizabeth life, and at feelings that were integral in her journey with God. S. Loretto wrote other compositions throughout her lifetime, but A Valiant Woman remains her biggest claim to fame, and the praise of the composition led to the cantata being featured in the 1983 edition of the Anthology of Large Choral Works by American Composers, as well as being a factor in her induction into the Cincinnati MacDowell Society which is affiliated with the national organization known as the MacDowell Colony that recognizes talented artists, musicians, and writers. Former College of Mount St. Joseph art professor, John Nartker, said of the Cantata: “She has wed poetry and music which closes with an ‘Alleluia’ that brings all parts together.” S. Loretto retired in 1997 to spend more time composing and praying.