Loreto Women

A heroic spirit is a great advantage to virtue. Happy is she who has received this gift from God. Mary Ward


The students of Loreto Kirribilli take inspiration from the faith and courage of pioneering Loreto women, who crossed continents and oceans, faced imprisonment and penury, steadfast in their belief in the importance of the education of girls.

From Mary Ward's determination to create an active religious life for women; to the energetic Frances Teresa Ball establishing schools in Ireland and across the world; to Mother Gonzaga Barry and her sisters bravely sailing across the ocean to land in Melbourne in the 1880s; our Loreto women, with their faith and indomitable spirit, display strength and gentleness in equal measure.

Mary Ward
(1585 - 1645)

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.


Frances Teresa Ball
(1794 - 1861)

Frances Teresa Ball founded the Irish Branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM). After attending school at the Bar Convent, York, she trained as a religious of the IBVM and returned to her home town Dublin to establish a convent and school there.

In 1822 she opened the first house of the Institute in Ireland, Rathfarnham House, four miles from Dublin. She called it “Loretto House”, after the shrine in Italy where Mary Ward used to pray. The “Loretto” name was used for all subsequent foundations that came from Ireland resulting in the Sisters of the Irish Branch of the IBVM being popularly known as “Loreto Sisters” (the spelling changed at the end of the nineteenth century).

Teresa Ball was a woman of deep spirituality and significant administrative ability. Much of her energies were devoted to the establishment of many convent schools in Ireland and in India (1842), Mauritius (1844), Gibraltar (1845), Canada (1847) and England (1851).


Mother Gonzaga Barry
(1834 - 1915)

Loreto began in Australia with Mother Gonzaga Barry’s arrival in Ballarat, 1875 at the invitation of Bishop Michael O’Connor. She and her seven companions came from Ireland to meet the educational needs of the increasing local population.

Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools were rapidly established in Ballarat and, soon after, in other states of Australia, including Loreto Kirribilli. Her vision for the education of girls contributed to a broad and rich curriculum which led to Gonzaga Barry’s significant influence on the development of education in the country.

M Gonzaga Barry at desk.jpg