Eva Antone Ross
200th Anniversary of the Sisters of Loretto
Summary of Interview
Her given name Helen E. Santamaria was born April 18, 1943. Her nun name is Helen Miriam Santamaria. She is named after her mother and she wanted to keep the name Helen. Her mother is a native El Pasoan. Her father is from Mexico who came to visit his brother in Juarez. He attended a wedding and met her mother. She was 16 and he was 23. She described their meeting at love at first sight. The pair waited for her to graduate from High School, El Paso High School to get married. She graduated in May and the pair married in August. The number 18 played significant for her mother, with her graduation date, wedding date, Helen’s birthday and her death was on the 18th. Helen has four brothers and four sisters. Her family had nine siblings in total. At the time of this interview, all of her siblings were living. Her family moved to Roswell, NM and she returned by herself to attend Loretto Academy. She lived with an aunt and uncle for her freshmen and sophomore year. Her parents returned to El Paso and she lived with them her junior and senior year. She said she was a cheerleader as well and a sister told her to enjoy high school before becoming a sister and the lord would tell her if she had a vocation. She graduated as a salutatorian of her class and gave a speech during graduation. She described her childhood as a beautiful childhood and said her family went to church every Sunday. She said Sunday’s were devoted to family time. She said she felt close to God growing up. Her father was not happy with her decision to go to the motherhouse. He felt she was too young, especially since she was the eldest of nine children. Her parents ultimately gave her their blessing and she said he went to visit her one weekend and he changed his viewpoint after he saw how happy she was at the motherhouse. She describes her day to day life while at the motherhouse. While she was there they would make trails in the Kentucky woods. She would wear her habit, veil and apron and blaze the trails. She also discusses her accomplishments during her career. Ms. Ross reads a proclamation about the good works, programs and improvements Sister Santamaria accomplished in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She also left El Paso area to take care of her parents in Florida. She asked for a sabbatical after her 10-‐year anniversary of working with the diocese of El Paso. Her brothers built her parents a home and they returned. She also worked as a Chaplin for the ICE processing center on Montana in El Paso. When Loretto Academy was built, it was built with both cultures in mind. The Mexican families wanted their children to learn English but the English speaking families did not feel the same about their children learning Spanish. She also served as President of Loretto. She tells everyone that the religious life is a beautiful life. Although she is uncertain about the future, she said listening to the Lord is key. She is considered young at the time of this interview and she is 67 years old. She has never doubted her vocation and has always loved being a sister. She discusses the Loretto Community with members, who are sisters, and co-‐members who are not. She also discusses the bi-‐centennial celebration of the Sisters of Loretto and their plans for the celebration on April 25th.
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Interview with Helen Santamaria Sister by Eva Antone Ross, 2010, "Interview no. 1694," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.