To understand the story of all Australian Loreto schools, it is necessary to return to the beginnings of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) founded by Mary Ward in 1609 at St Omer in Belgium. Mary Ward, born in 1585 in Yorkshire, grew up in times of religious persecution in England. Her deep faith in God inspired her to pioneer a new type of religious life for women, one that would allow them the freedom to respond to any apostolic need, rather than operate within the confines of enclosure, as was the norm for women religious of the time. Her chief concern was the "care of the faith" through the education of girls, and her schools were modelled on those of the Jesuits.
Grounded in Ignatian spirituality, Mary Ward believed in the capacity of women as well as men to find God in the ordinary experience of human life. In her own time, it seemed that she fought a losing battle, culminating in the suppression of the Institute, her own imprisonment and the closing of the schools. From early and difficult beginnings in Flanders, Bavaria and England, Mary Ward's Institute spread, during the next four centuries, over five continents. Nearly 400 years later, the spirit of Mary Ward continues to inspire us and Loreto schools are part of an international network of friendship, education and shared values, imbued with the Mary Ward tradition and determination of women "to do much" with their lives.
Present Loreto schools belong to an international family of IBVM schools throughout the world.
Loreto in Australia is part of the Irish Generalate founded in Dublin in 1821 by Frances Ball, who received her religious formation as an IBVM sister at the Bar Convent in York. The first house in Ireland, located at Rathfarnham, was called "Loreto", a name subsequently given to foundations from Ireland and hence the sisters of the Irish Branch are commonly known as Loreto sisters.
The IBVM was introduced into Australia in 1875 in response to a request from Bishop O'Connor of Ballarat who had known the sisters in Ireland. Mother Gonzaga Barry, ibvm led the small group to Australia and set up the first convent and school "Loreto Abbey", Mary's Mount at Ballarat.
Mother Gonzaga Barry's influence on primary, secondary and tertiary education in Australia was both lively and profound. She established schools across the country which provided a wide range of students with a balanced, happy yet challenging education that prepared them to exert a lasting influence on the emerging nation. Moreover, her initiatives to improve the quality of teacher training and in-service went far beyond Loreto.
Now the Loreto Sisters are active across Australia and in every continent, collaborating with others to bring the gospels to life in the church and in society. Education is seen as a vital part of this endeavour, a way of promoting full human growth and freedom.
IBVM Website - Friends of Loreto should pay particular attention to the newsletter provided for the extended Loreto family and schools by following the link to Loreto Networks or accessing directly at http://www.loreto.org.au/loreto_networks/index.html
Mary Ward International Brochure
Loreto Sisters in Australia
The Institute spread rapidly throughout mainland Australia and in 1892 the first Loreto day and boarding school in Sydney was opened in Randwick.
In 1897 a separate boarding school was established at Normanhurst, and in 1901 the day school was transferred to Milsons Point, to a house called "Kunimbla" in Fitzroy Street. A year later, increasing numbers necessitated the move to "Fern Hill", a house in Upper Pitt Street, and in 1907 to the present site in Carabella Street.
"Elamang", a home owned by early settler James Milson, was purchased in 1907 with the financial assistance of Mrs Sarah Heaton. Her daughter, Sr. Philomena Heaton ibvm, was a founding member of the Kirribilli community. The purchase of this house allowed for more boarders as well as an increase in day scholar numbers. Over the years adjacent properties were purchased - "Coreena" (previously owned by Alfred Milson) in 1921, "The Hermitage" (Hottens) in 1924, Thoms in 1952, flats on Carabella Street in 1960 and "Araluen" in 1975. There were constant improvements and additions to these buildings, including the 1912 dormitory, the hall and dormitory in 1920, the balcony added to Elamang in 1924, and the chapel wing in 1930. The Chapel Tower was the highest point on the Kirribilli Peninsular for many years and it remains a landmark, dominating the skyline when viewed from the waters of Neutral Bay.
The Hermitage, once the junior school, was demolished in 1936 to provide a playing field and tennis courts, and "Coreena" was replaced in 1961 by the present junior school. Government funding in the 1960's enabled the building of St Joseph's wing, which included science rooms and library. This was the era of significant growth in student numbers. Boarders had been phased out since an explosion which destroyed St Mary's (Thoms) in 1968. The last year of the boarding school was 1972. Junior school extensions provided a hall, library and art room in 1974, and the senior school block (Mary Ward wing) was opened in 1981. The hall in this wing has been converted into an auditorium and annexe, providing an excellent space for the Performing Arts.
In 1980 "Araluen", which had been a music centre for five years, was extended to provide accommodation for the Loreto Sisters, and the community areas in the "Elamang" building were converted for use as staff rooms, general school administration and music.
The Centenary buildings were opened in 1992 after a major fundraising campaign to fund their completion. They consisted of a Science and Computer block, the Centenary Hall and Gymnasium, with car park beneath and tennis courts on the roof of each new building. The Performing Arts Centre, completed in 2000, houses the electronic Music Laboratory, a classroom with performance space and private, sound-proof tutorial rooms, as well as the Auditorium, Annexe and Foyer. In 2002, work was completed on new facilities for Administration and Technological and Applied Studies.
In 2003, a further Capital Appeal enabled the refurbishment and re-distribution of classrooms and the upgrade of Administration facilities within the Elamang block. In addition, the Mary Ward wing and St Joseph's classrooms were totally stripped and re-appointed with new carpet, windows, fans, internal walls and wireless computer cabling. New Computer facilities were added and the Technological and Applied Sciences facilities were taken to new heights. Plans were submitted and later approved for the re-development of the Junior School, including the addition of a further storey and the addition of a new Junior Library on the top floor. This project commenced at the end of Term 3, 2005 and was completed by the beginning of the 2006 school year.
The Principal of Loreto Kirribilli is directly responsible for the administration of the school, assisted by an executive team of Senior School Directors and the Head of the Junior School. In line with all other Australian Loreto schools, Kirribilli is governed by a school council, which, together with the Principal, ensures that the philosophy of the IBVM and its educational ideals are maintained and promoted within the school. Loreto school council consists of members of the IBVM and friends of the school who bring skills in areas such as education, law, finance, communications, parenting, building, planning and development to their role in the governance of the school.