New Humanity Movement

Health: Person, Environment


Villaloretto2A structure originally born to house elderly people has become along the years an opportunity for the whole city to experience family moments in the gathering of peoples, religions and generations. The nuns at the heart of this project would have never imagined such a development, but…



Wisconsin (USA)

Founded in 1965 by Mother Mary Rose Schulte together with other nuns of the congregation she initiated, Villa Loretto began as a nursing home in Mt Calvary, a rural farming community in Wisconsin, in the Region of the Great Lakes in the USA.

Mother Rose has known the ideal of universal brotherhood since the Sixties, a stormy period for the religious life in the US, when many nuns left the convent. However brotherhood lived in the convent and in the town changed the life style of the nuns in those years, so much that Mother Rose felt the need to rewrite the rule of her congregation, in order to harmonize it with the new model of life she had met. Mother Rose died few years ago, but her mission continues through the work of the nuns, that seize any opportunity to show together that brotherhood is not an abtract ideal, but has the actual power of changing things, of improving the life of a town.

Let us just think at Villa Loretto: keeping in mind that the majority of the residents are farmers, the nuns created an environment, where they feel welcome, as if they were home, with beautiful gardens surrounded by lakes and hills. 
The sisters and the residents raise sheep, goats, chickens, horses. Inside there are aviaries with colorful birds, turtles and other animals placed in the common rooms for residents to enjoy.

As time went by, and the fame of Villa Loretto grew more and more, the nuns decided to raise more exotic animals like emus, llamas, alpacas and peacocks. Besides the therapeutic effect on the elderly residents, the wide variety of animals makes this property a great attraction for the surrounding community.

Few years later Villa Rosa was opened, the assisted living wing, whereas Villa Loretto is a nursing home for self-sufficient elderly people.
Presently there are 72 residents altogether, with 101 employees and more than 50 volunteers, that help in a number of ways.

Not all the employees and volunteers are christian catholic, but everyone is keenly aware of the mission that animates the lives of the sisters, that is creating brotherhood in all these places, and as they see their commitment and happiness in doing so, they join them in treating each person they meet with full respect, with care and finesse.
Among the employees a deep familiar mood reigns, so that some of them left other jobs they had found with a better pay, because they wanted to keep on working in such a structure.

One of the new residents is a devout Muslim lady from India. Initially it was difficult for her to live in a different culture where she didn’t speak the language; moreover she was unaccustomed to the food, and her family lived three hours away. The sisters and the staff immediately went to work preparing food she liked, finding ways for her to practice her faith and to feel part of the community. Although her relatives eventually located a nursing home icloser to the city where they lived, she decided to remain at Villa Loretto.

When in a place life is so intense, coherent, and benefits the place itself, even with the obvious difficulties and limits of the human condition, then it cannot remain restricted to a lucky few, but becomes contagious, and extends as circles generated by a stone thrown into the water. In our case, the circles are the blocks, the neighbours, the whole town, which becomes a protagonist of this misson together with the nuns, in a lot of different ways. Some years ago the sisters began making bread and cakes to sell, calling their products Nun Better (it is an obvious pun). They are bought by a lot of people. As an added support to their work, donations of vegetables, fruit, clothes, blankets and yarn are constantly received from the surrounding farmers, factories and businesses in the area.
 Unused items are given away to people in the community.

Following the example set by the nuns, the pastor of a local small African American congregation decided to start projects aimed at disabled persons, visiting the families with economic problems, and getting these persons in touch with the nuns.
The nuns introduced the “cube of love”* to teachers of surrounding elementary schools, and they started using it with their pupils.

Little by little the fame of Villa Loretto spread, and by now there a lot of regular activities, that involve the local community; they are supported both by employees and volunteers, that offer a lot of their spare time for all these initiatives. One of these is “Respite Care” 
 that offers single days, weekends and sometimes slightly longer periods for children with special needs who often come from troubled backgrounds. Close to 500 have passed through this program, and a lot of them have become more emotionally stable, gained new values and adapted to a new lifestyle.

Then we have the Family Fun Day, whose aim is to support families in all the surrounding communities, encourage them to know each other and do things together.

At Halloween on October 31st there are many differents activities for childern, as a journey through haunted woods (extra decorated for this event) for teens, and other games for kids. Children visit the elderly residents, show them their customes, and trick or treat with them. This is usually a big success, and brings generations together.

In the spring, summer and fall, the sisters take their animals to town fairs in the surrounding area and set up a petting zoo. Seeing the sisters in their habits attending to the animals certainly leads to some interesting conversations with visitors.

And finally the Tours: the main county city, Fond-du-lac has featured Villa Loretto as one of the top places to visit in Wisconsin. On average, some 30 tour-operators with 1,500 people visit each year, mostly children. Visitors come from the surrounding communities, but some of them also from Kentucky, and even from Texas.

*The cube of love is a normal dice  and on each of its six sides there is a motto, a phrase, that helps in living brotherhood along the whole day. You usually throw it in the morning. It is used as a pedagogical tool, and as a game at the same time above all for kids, even if a lot of adults do not shy away from using it.

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