The People of Gibraltar

1845 - The Loreto Nuns - 8: Mary Ward and Teresa Ball

Mother Joseph Anne Hickey and Susan Cousse Murphy (Sister Stanislaus)
Marcella Byrne (Sister Ignatius) and Sisters Veronica Mooney and Bernadine Lyons 
Major Charles A Boulton and Captain Semmes
Father Manuel Schiacaluga and  Bishop Scandella  - Sir Richard Airey 
 Mother Berchmans Lenigan and Mother Xaveria - Mother Joseph Anne Hickey
Governors Houston and Gardiner

The Rock in the 1860s ( 1862 - Frederick Sayer )  ( See LINK)

Mary Ward began her innovative experiment in religious life in Elizabethan England. At the time, being Catholic in England frequently meant persecution and even death. Mary wanted her women’s group to be patterned on the model of Ignatius of Loyola’s Society of Jesus with the mobility and flexibility that the Jesuit rule provided. She wanted her women to dress like ordinary women and to be mobile, not cloistered as most women religious were in those days, and to elect their own General Superior. 

They were to be free to go wherever the need was to educate people in the faith. This was a wholly new kind of religious order. In implementing her dream Mary Ward’s actions raised more than a few clerical eyebrows. Her nuns were ridiculed and called “galloping girls” because of their propensity for travelling about on horseback. She was initially condemned by the Church and imprisoned by the Inquisition, and when she died in 1645 there was virtually nothing to show for her life’s work all over Europe. Most of her followers had been disbanded.

Mary Ward  ( Unknown )

However, a remnant of Mary Ward’s Institute had survived here and there in Europe, though the ravages of European wars severed their network of communications. One Community of the Institute survived in England against all odds. Mary Ward was still their ‘Chief Superior’ in London at the beginning of the English Civil War. In 1642 when things began to get difficult in London the companions moved to York where Mary Ward died in 1645. 

 Some years later in 1686 Frances Bedingfield, who had been a contemporary of Mary Ward, was able to purchase a house at Micklegate Bar in York. Here they set up school, though at this time of persecution for Catholics they did not of course advertise the fact that they were Catholic Religious. This is where Frances Ball was sent in 1803, to be educated by Mary Ward’s successors “The Ladies of the Bar”. 
After Frances had finished her schooling at York she returned there in 1814 and entered the novitiate of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary where she received her religious training and made her Profession in 1816. As Mother Mary Teresa she went back to Dublin in 1821 with two novices to establish the Irish Branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the instruction of children. She also brought with her a copy of Mary Ward’s original Constitutions which she had copied out by hand. In 1822 she opened the first Convent of the Institute in Ireland at Rathfarnam House, four miles from Dublin. 
Mother Teresa Ball was a woman of great piety and administrative ability. During her years as General of Loreto she had been able to send fifty-four sisters ‘on mission’ to far-flung parts of the British Empire. . . . The year Mother Teresa Ball died (1861) five more nuns arrived in Gibraltar to support Loreto’s developing mission. The new Superior was Mother Joseph Anne Hickey . . .She was accompanied by Susan Cousse Murphy (Sister Stanislaus), a convert to Catholicism, and Marcella Byrne (Sister Ignatius), both professed novices, aged twenty-five and twenty-two respectively, and by Sisters Veronica Mooney and Bernadine Lyons who would look after the house.
The most memorable event that occurred during this period was the great Civil War in America which began in 1861. In Gibraltar a Canadian, Major Charles A Boulton, was able to witness from the top of the Rock . . 
 . . . the burning by the ‘Sumter’ of several vessels at more than a league distant from us on the Mediterranean side, and the quiet episode of the two American vessels which immediately afterwards occupied our waters in the Bay of Gibraltar. The Confederate cruiser ‘Sumter’, under the command of the celebrated Captain Semmes, had taken shelter under the guns, and the American war-vessel ‘Kearsarge’, Captain Winslowe in command, kept quiet watch in Algeciras Bay to see that she did not escape to commit depredations upon American shipping.” 

The Sumter capturing two ships  (Unknown )

Capt Semmes

Gibraltar was agog, and the Loreto sisters would certainly have heard about the events in the Bay and may even have witnessed the ships from the terrace of their house in Waterport Street. Captain Boulton remarked that it was interesting to see the commanders of these vessels occasionally reading together in the Garrison Library and the officers of both vessels being entertained in turn by the officers of the 100th Regiment. 

War was waged politely in those days. Sadly Mother Joseph Anne Hickey, who was spoken of with great affection and respect, died in 1862 after only one year in Gibraltar. She was so loved and appreciated by the Gibraltarians that when she died the people asked for her coffin to be carried open along the Main Street towards the cemetery. Four years later on the occasion of the similar burial of a very popular Gibraltarian priest, Father Manuel Schiacaluga, the Secretary of State for the Colonies informed Bishop Scandella (via Governor Sir Richard Airey and his Secretary) that “such processions should be forbidden as well as the exposure of bodies in open coffins.”

General Sir Richard Airey  (See LINK

The Governor informed the Bishop that he and all those who had taken part in the funeral procession had been liable to imprisonment and a fine, but assured him that he had no wish to bring legal proceedings so long as it was clearly understood that this would not happen again. It seems the practice of conveying bodies in open coffins was prevalent in Malta, though it was illegal there too, and perhaps the custom had been brought to Gibraltar by some of the new Maltese immigrants.