1845 - The Loreto Nuns - Epilogue
Mother Teresa Ball
Gibraltar in the mid 19th century ( G.F. Weston )
“Something more than ordinary”
When Mother Teresa Ball returned to Dublin after her training at the Bar Convent in York she and her two companions set about establishing the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ireland. Soon news of the high standards of education being offered by the Loreto Sisters in the ‘Poor Schools’ and in the fee-paying boarding schools which subsidised them became known and appreciated throughout the country and several more schools were opened in Ireland.
Mother Teresa Ball had not originally envisaged setting up Loreto schools outside of Ireland. Nevertheless the first call for help came from India in 1842. It was followed by further appeals from Mauritius and Gibraltar in 1845. Thereafter followed in quick succession requests from Bishops in Toronto, Canada (1847), Manchester, England and Cadiz, Spain (1851), Australia (1875), Pretoria, South Africa (1878), Joliet in the United States (1881)…..; the establishment of new missions has continued throughout the 20th century in various parts of the world, and continues today according to need.
Since 1992 and in response to a letter from Sister Mary Wright the current Superior General, new missions have been set up in Tanzania, Nepal, Morocco and Bolivia. In her letter Mary Wright invited each Province to exercise their “courage to move”, as they have done since the early days.
Mary Ward’s Institute, founded as it was on the basis of Ignatian spirituality, undertakes change after due reflection according to particular Ignatian principles. The intention is to ‘discern’ what best serves God’s purposes in any new enterprise. Therefore a period of reflection followed as a result of which the Spanish Province recently opened a house in Ecuador under the leadership of Sister Louise Latin, one of our Gibraltarian Loreto Sisters. Members of the English Province are about to begin working in Albania; Mauritius is sending Sisters to the Seychelles, Australia to East Timor – and the Irish Province, to which Gibraltar belongs, is involved in one of the very latest projects due to begin in February 2006.
The Right Reverend Cesare Mazzolari, Bishop of Rumbek in Southern Sudan, expressed the great need for a girls’ Secondary School in Rumbek. After a period of deliberation, as described above, several Sisters volunteered to take part in the project. Among the four pioneers chosen will be another of our Gibraltarian Loretos, Sister Maria Suetta from the Europa school.
Although the gift Loreto offers will always be education in some shape or form many of the Sisters around the world now live in smaller communities and their work in education reaches beyond straightforward teaching in schools, colleges and universities. . .
Nowadays members of the Institute are found working as clinical psychologists and psychotherapists, spiritual directors and retreat leaders, writers, nurses and doctors, cooks and housekeepers, poets and artists, in prisons, helping in soup kitchens, running hostels and conference centres… in fact, in any occupation that has to do with supporting the development of the spiritual and natural qualities of human beings . . .
During the hundred and sixty years of Loreto’s presence in Gibraltar the Sisters have been challenged to undertake major projects while short of personnel; to stand up for themselves when ‘women’s work’ was discounted as trivial; in the early days of poor and slow communications to deal with feelings of isolation and homesickness; to accept sickness and death far from home; to live simply – sometimes in poverty – on limited means; to value and understand other faiths and cultures and languages.
In the process they learned tolerance, inventiveness, and how to stand on their own two feet; they learned a lofty sense of responsibility and a deeper appreciation of the particular charisma of Mary Ward whose focus was especially on the qualities of truth, justice, sincerity and joy. This is Loreto’s legacy to Gibraltar’s children, and we inherit a particular responsibility for passing it on, or to put it another way:
. . to set the world on fire with God’s love.