Mission, Vision, and History


St. Mary's Academy fosters excellence in each child through academic achievement, spiritual development, and service. The Loretto School Values of faith, community, justice, and respect provide the foundation for students to be powerful agents of change.


Inspiring leaders to act with integrity, seek justice, build community, and change the world.

The History of SMA

When the Colorado Territory was formed in 1861 nearly160 years ago, a key necessity was missing in Denver: a stable educational experience for the children of families new to the frontier. In 1864, three courageous and selfless Sisters of Loretto traveled by mail coach to Denver from their home in Santa Fe, New Mexico to open St. Mary’s Academy. In the introduction to St. Mary's Academy - 150 Years, former Colorado State Historian William J. Convery described the founders as transplanting knowledge from the East, and “tolerance and respect for diversity, and a commitment to justice.”

St. Mary's Academy conferred the first diploma in the Colorado Territory to Jessie Forshee in 1875, launching a legacy of Loretto School Values that would guide SMA students into the 20th and 21st centuries. The ethos of St. Mary’s Academy is deeply rooted in the spirituality and mission of Loretto, where faith, community, justice and respect serve as a touchstone for all aspects of our community.

Today the Sisters of Loretto continue a long and vital tradition of education by sponsoring St. Mary’s Academy and The Havern School in Denver, Loretto Academy in El Paso, and Nerinx Hall in St. Louis. Every year St. Mary’s Academy provides experiences for students, teachers, and administrators to deepen the bond with Loretto and with these other schools. Since 1988 teachers have traveled each spring to the Motherhouse in Kentucky for an intensive weekend immersion in the community’s rich history and vibrant mission of today. Likewise, high school students from the Loretto schools spend a week of service at the Motherhouse, learning advocacy skills in El Paso and participating in a leadership conference in Denver that culminates in a Loretto Leadership Statement to guide their year’s work.

As a school dedicated to educating young people to be powerful agents of change, we embrace the Constitutions of the Sisters of Loretto that encourage us to “educate others as well as ourselves to truth, beauty and the ways of peace, in the spirit of Jesus.” 

SMA Historical Timeline