As part of the Loreto community in Australia, we are familiar with Mary Ward and Mother Gonzaga Barry, however the link between the founder of the Institute and the founder of the Australian Province, is an Irish woman, Teresa Ball, whose life and work we are preparing to celebrate throughout 2021 and 2022.
2021-2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of Loreto in Ireland; a jubilee celebration of Loreto’s Irish origins.
It was Mother Teresa Ball who first used the name ‘Loreto’ and ‘Loreto’ has since become the name used by the Sisters, the convents, and the schools of the Irish Branch of the IBVM. She was also assumed to have designed the Loreto crest which dates back as early as the 1850s.
Frances Ball (1794-1861), born in Dublin, was sent to be educated at The Bar Convent, York. She returned to York in 1814 to be received into the Novitiate and trained as a Sister of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (founded by Mary Ward in 1609). Frances was given the religious name ‘Mary Teresa’ and on 12 August 1821, she returned home to Dublin with two novices to establish a convent and school.
On 4 November 1822, she opened the first convent of the Institute in Ireland at ‘Rathfarnham House’. She named it ‘Loretto House’, after the shrine in Italy (the double ‘t’ to be later dropped).
Although Loreto in Australia was not a foundation directly initiated by Teresa Ball, as she had died before the mission was made, Mother Gonzaga Barry and the pioneering Sisters would have known her and witnessed other missionaries setting out from Ireland. Teresa Ball founded convents and schools in India (1842), Mauritius (1844), Gibraltar (1845), Canada (1847) and England (1851). The move to Australia followed these earlier models.
The Loreto Sisters arrived in Australia on 19 July 1875, carrying the Loreto name with them to be bestowed on all of their schools; maintaining the link to Ireland, and through Ireland, to the wider network of Mary Ward women.
100 Irish Sisters left their homes to work in Australian convents and schools, the first being the pioneer group led by Mother Gonzaga Barry in 1875. Many of these Sisters were never to return home to Ireland but spent their lives working in the convents and schools in Australia.
In our Archives Centre in Ballarat, we are contributing to the celebration with a display detailing the story of Teresa Ball and the Irish Sisters who made their home in Australia. We look at some of the stories of these Sisters and the Irish heritage with which they brought to our Loreto schools.