Home / What We Do / Education / Tertiary and adult education

Tertiary and adult education

The Loreto Sisters have played a significant role in tertiary education. From the early days when Mary Gonzaga Barry founded a teachers' college, the Loreto Sisters have expanded into tertiary and adult education throughout Australia. In departments of English, fine arts, education and theology, they have brought and continue to bring Gospel priorities into dialogue with their own fields of lecturing and research.

Tertiary education

One of our main roles has been the leadership of St Mary’s Hall (1918-1965) and then St Mary’s College (1966- ) at The University of Melbourne. Current principal, Dr Elizabeth Hepburn ibvm brings her rich background of bio-ethics and wider education to this role. Liz is the author of "Of Life and Death" and has contributed to various journals in psychology, pharmacology and bioethics.

In the last 50 years another level of involvement has been the participation of a few sisters in university life as tutors, lecturers and professors. Notable among these sisters is emeritus professor, Dr Margaret Manion, ibvm, one of Australia’s pre-eminent art historians, whose scholarship on Medieval and Renaissance art, and in particular the art of the illuminated manuscript, is acclaimed internationally.

As Professor emeritus and honorary professorial fellow of the University of Melbourne, Margaret is co-ordinator of the Manuscript Resource Unit at the Academic Centre, St Mary’s and Newman Colleges, The University of Melbourne and of the Research Cluster for Manuscript Studies. In 2008 she was the guest curator for a highly acclaimed exhibition which will included over 100 manuscripts from the libraries of Cambridge University, UK, and from Australian and New Zealand collections. She continues her work in writing and in supervising PHD students.

From West Australia and with impacts across Australia and beyond, Dr Veronica Brady ibvm has been a voice for justice and a leading specialist on the writings of Patrick White. As a commentator, Veronica has brought into the public arena a creative connection between theology and literature. Her ability to break through expected stereotypes has enabled her to speak to a wide range of Australians. Known for her academic work in Australian literature at the University of Western Australia, writing continues to be an important part of her life.

The other main area of tertiary work has been in theological colleges, notably Dr Joan Nowotny ibvm, who lectured at Yarra Theological College in philosophy for many years, and was the academic dean for much of that period. Her contact with the college continued until her unexpected death in 2008.

Adult faith education

Adult faith education is close to the core of the Loreto charism of sharing the faith. Christine Burke ibvm and Maria Bongiorno ibvm have both played significant roles in two different dioceses. Christine within the Archdiocese of Adelaide, in their Adult Education Team from 1978-1987, and then in the tertiary field at Adelaide College of Divinity in Pastoral Leadership Formation from 1995-2003.

Maria Bongiorno ibvm is the Director of the Parramatta Institute for Mission, in Blacktown. As director, Maria works with her team to co-ordinate and present adult faith formation and education courses which are both educational and formative.

The main course offered is the 40 week, part-time Parramatta Certificate in Pastoral Formation. It is offered to all in the Diocese and those 400+ who have been through it to date, work in parishes as secretaries, on parish councils, as members of sacramental teams, RCIA teams, those who are eucharistic ministers, readers, catechists, and school principals.

The cultural heritage of participants is very diverse, from Australia, Croatia, Vietnam, Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Malta, Chile, Sudan, Philippines, Kiribas, Samoa, Fiji, South Africa, Nicaragua, Iraq, Italy, Hong Kong, Egypt, Lebanon and many others. The Parramatta Diocese is the most ‘multicultural’ Diocese in the Catholic Church in the world.

Specialist courses are offered on a regular basis for people wishing to prepare for liturgical ministries in the Parishes: Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, Ministers of the Word; those who are involved in Sacramental programs, all areas of pastoral ministry including ministry of care, spirituality and faith formation. Courses are also run for those who just want to grow in their faith and understanding of what it is to be a Catholic.  

Therese Lechte ibvm is part of the Melbourne Archdiocesan Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) support team. Other sisters in parishes have had a focus on providing for their parish communities opportunities for further understanding and development of their engagement with the faith tradition as a way of strengthening their relationship with Jesus and supporting them in their spiritual journey.

More on what we do