Sisters of Loreto
The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose members are commonly known as Sisters of Loreto (named so after the shrine at Loreto, Marche in Italy where Mary Ward used to pray) is a religious congregation of women, dedicated to apostolic work in the Church. It was founded in 1609 by Mary Ward. In North America, the original spelling of "Loretto" is used. Mary Ward was declared "Venerable" (the first of three steps towards being declared a saint) by the authority of Pope Benedict XVI on 19 December 2009.
After being suppressed for a short period in 1639, the Institute was slowly revived, receiving complete canonical approval in 1877. Today it is engaged in a wide variety of ministries: Catholic schools, literacy programmes, spiritual direction, counselling, managing shelters for homeless women as well as several aspects of the movement for greater justice and peace in the world. They are active in every continent. Today, the Loreto Sisters have set up 150 schools worldwide, educating over 70,000 pupils.
Mary Ward was inspired by the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (now often referred to as "Ignatian spirituality"). She had a vision for a different, new and modern mode of religious life for women. She envisioned women living a life in companionship and discernment, inspired by the Gospel and engaging with the world without the constraints of the traditional cloister, nor an established 'rule' placing them under the governance of the local bishop. She also believed that women were equal to men in intellect and should be educated accordingly. The circumstances of the time and the widespread suspicion of Jesuits did not allow her to succeed with the foundation of a religious institute according to her vision. Indeed, although the Institute experienced significant success after its foundation in 1609, it was suppressed in 1630, a situation which lasted nine years, when the Institute revived somewhat. However, it was not until 1703 that, what is termed the Second Institute, received papal approval for its rule from the then-pope Clement IX and canonical recognition as a religious institute by Pope Pius IX in 1877.
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In the early 19th century, the Loreto sisters developed as a distinct community in Ireland. Under the guidance of Sister Frances Mary Teresa Ball the Irish Branch established schools. In 1847, Sister Teresa Dease with 5 sisters was invited by the Bishop of Toronto, Canada to set up schools. As in Ireland, the congregation thrived in Canada establishing several schools and communities. In 1880, the first community was established in the USA at Joliet, Illinois. Because of the difficulties in overseas communication and the different directions of the North American versus European education systems. Canada and the United States communities suggested that a North American Generalate would best serve the needs of the times and as a result the North American Branch was officially created in 1881.
At the invitation of Bishop Michael Power of Toronto, the Loreto Sisters under Mother Teresa Ellen Dease arrived in the city in 1847 and founded their first school. Since the 1920s their motherhouse has been at Loretto Abbey (Armour Heights) and still houses a girls' secondary school: Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School. The Sisters also founded Loretto College School on Brunswick Avenue in 1915 and started a college and residence for women at St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. The sisters also established many other schools across Canada, both at the elementary and secondary levels.
The Loreto Sisters arrived in Australia in 1878 in response to a request by the Bishop of Ballarat, Bishop O'Connell. The group from Ireland, led by Mother Gonzaga Barry, set up a convent in Ballarat, Victoria and their first school, Loreto College, Ballarat, was originally known as "Mary's Mount".
In 1892 a day school was established in Randwick, New South Wales and in 1897 Loreto Normanhurst, also in New South Wales, began as a boarding school. The Randwick day school move to Milson's Point in 1901 to begin what is now known as Loreto Kirribilli. The IBVM in Australia have schools in Brisbane (Loreto College, Coorparoo), Adelaide (Loreto College, Marryatville), Melbourne (Loreto Mandeville Hall) and Perth (Loreto Nedlands Primary School).
The 19th Century saw the establishment of Loreto Schools and Colleges in India and run some of the most highly regarded places of education for women. The same century saw sisters from Ireland establishing a mission in South Africa in 1878. The first years of the 20th century (1904)saw the establishment of a convent in Spain by the Sisters who had a convent in Gibraltar.
Today, Sisters of the institute are found worldwide. It has historically been divided into three main groups known as the Roman Branch, the Irish Branch and the North American Branch. This situation changed in September 2003, when the sisters of the North American Branch voted to unite with the Irish Branch. From this, confirmed by Papal Decree, a new entity has been forged, now referred as The Loreto Branch. The Roman Branch received permission from the Vatican to change its name, to reflect more closely Mary Ward's vision of a Jesuit order for women. The Roman Branch is now Congregatio Jesu or the Congregation of Jesus.
The Sisters established a number of schools in England and Northern Ireland. They include Loreto Colleges in St Albans and Manchester, Loreto Grammar School in Altrincham, Greater Manchester and St Mary's Schools in Ascot, Cambridge and Shaftesbury. The schools in Northern Ireland are Loreto College, Coleraine and Loreto Grammar School, Omagh. Most were founded as girls' schools and a number have gone coeducational. Loreto High School in Chorlton, Manchester is the first coeducational Loreto school in the United Kingdom.
The Sisters of the Australian Province work in Aboriginal welfare, rural communities and care for the aged as well as having outreach in Vietnam and East Timor. There are seven Loreto Colleges spread across 5 states, the oldest being the school in Ballarat, Victoria.
In North America, the Sisters have communities in California, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and throughout Canada. Although the North American Sisters are involved in many aspects of education, they are also involved in many community outreach programs. This includes Mercy Home for Boys and Girls (Chicago), Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital (Wheaton), Pillars Community Services (Hickory Hills), the Loreto Center (Wheaton) and Wells Spring Women's Center (Sacramento).
In South America the Congregation of Jesus has three private schools in Brazil (Instituto de Educação Beatíssima Virgem Maria - IEBVM, Colégio Santa Maria and Colégio Mary Ward) and three schools in Chile. The Brazilian Sisters often go on missionary travels to Piauí, one of the poorest states in Brazil.
See also 
- Mary Ward Named "Venerable"
- Website of Irish/North American Branch
- About Us
- "Obituaries: Mother Teresa". The Daily Telegraph. 16 October 2011.
- History (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Canadian Province)
- "Our Name". Congregatio Jesu.
Loreto Provinces around the world 
Australian Schools 
- Loreto College Ballarat, Victoria
- Loreto College Coorparoo, Queensland
- Loreto College Marryatville, South Australia
- Loreto Kirribilli, New South Wales
- Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak, Victoria
- Loreto Nedlands Primary School, Western Australia
- Loreto Normanhurst, New South Wales
- John XXIII College Perth, Western Australia
Canadian Schools 
- Loreto Schools Around the World
- Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Loreto Sisters / Mary Ward Sisters
- Congregatio Jesu aka the Roman Branch
- Home Page Of Loreto College Coleraine
- "Institute of Mary". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.