Foundations Made by M Teresa Ball
Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham


Loreto Abbey early 1900s

Front View of Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham

Frances Teresa Ball was born on 6th January 1794, at 63 Eccles Street, Dublin to John Ball (silk merchant and wholesale mercer) and Mable Clare Bennett. In 1803, she like her sisters, was sent to be educated at the Bar Convent, York, England. Following the sudden death of her father, Frances Ball returned to Dublin in 1808. Dr Daniel Murray, Archbishop of Dublin, close family friend, and life-long consultor, patron and friend, supported her in her vocation, to which her mother was initially strongly opposed. On 11th June 1814, she returned to the Bar Convent York, where she entered the novitiate. M. Coyney, Superior, Bar Convent, York agreed to accept Frances Ball, but insisted on a longer than usual novitiate (7 years), to train her for her return to Ireland to establish an independent branch of the Institute. Frances Ball was professed on 9th September 1816, adopted the religious name Teresa and remained in York until August 1820. M. Teresa Ball and two Irish novices, Ignatia Arthur and Baptist Therry, left Liverpool on 10th August 1821, and arrived in Dublin on 12th August 1821. The annals written by M. Teresa Ball, c. 1832 record their arrival in Dublin, and the establishment of the Irish branch of the Institute.

Manchester A Call for Help

MManchester Slums Web. Teresa Ball Responds to Request from Manchester Irish Emigrants Need Help


The aftermath of the Irish famine, 1846 – 1847, saw a mass exodus of the rural population of Ireland.  Thousands crossed the Irish Sea seeking refuge in the busy manufacturing towns of Lancashire, Manchester and Liverpool. In Manchester, alone in 1851, there were almost 38,000 Irish emigrants living in the utmost squalor and destitution. They were not, however, sheep without a shepherd. There was in Manchester at the time a most dedicated priest, Father Lawrence Toole, in whose parish of St. Wilfrid’s most of the Irish immigrants were gathered. He was deeply concerned about these helpless people, and especially the children, for whom there was no hope of the most vital social assistance, education, unless he could do something to provide it. He turned to their homeland, Ireland.

Gibraltar 1845

Loreto Education Arrives in Gibraltar

Sisters and Students Gibraltar c. 1893 web
Sister and Students Gibraltar c. 1893

Gibraltar in the 19th century was an important English outpost in the Mediterranean. From the Napoleonic wars, its importance as a key naval base had been recognised and it had developed as an important port for vessels travelling to India via the Suez Canal. Catholic priests werein short supply, and there was a great need for Catholic schools to educate the local Catholics. In 1845, Henry Hughes, OFM, Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar appealed to Dr Daniel Murray, Archbishop of Dublin for assistance in providing education for Catholic girls in Gibraltar. M. Teresa Ball was not found wanting. On 3rd December 1845, Bishop Hughes and five volunteers M. Angela Kelly, Superior, M. Vincent Clinch, M. Seraphia Rorke and M. Placida Byrne left Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham for Gibraltar.

Mauritius 1845

Mgr. William Bernard Allen Collier, o.s.b., Vicar Apostolic (1841-1847) and Bishop of Port Louis, visited Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham in 1844, and requested M. Teresa Ball to send an IBVM congregation to Mauritius. Mauritius at the time had only six priests, no Catholic schools and no religious order either of men or women. M. Teresa Ball promised to send eight nuns to Mauritius to work with Dr Collier, who departed Rathfarnham in May 1845. The Mauritian Mission was founded in 1845, by a group of seven sisters under the leadership of M. Austin Hearne. The founding sisters were, M. Francis Kelly, M. Camilla Mac Cormick, M. Hyacintha Looney, S. Raphael Ryan, S. Nativity Murtagh, M. Barbara and S. de Chantal.

Foundations made by M Teresa Ball

A firm advocate and believer in the power of education to relieve the poor, M. Teresa Ball had no expectations of expanding the Institute beyond Ireland. During her lifetime, ship for mapsa further 13 Irish foundations were established throughout the country. From 1841 onwards, M. Teresa Ball was invited and persuaded to establish foreign missions. In 1841, the first mission was established in India, and was rapidly followed by Mauritius 1845, Gibraltar 1845, Canada 1874, England 1851, and Spain 1851. Small groups of pioneering women, numbering between four and eight, departed from Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham for distant missions. A total of 37 Loreto houses were founded throughout seven countries, and 54 sisters sent on mission, by the time of her death in 1861.

The following articles, drawing on the resources available in the Loreto Central and Irish Province Archives, attempt to shed some light on the establishment of these missions in six foreign countries. It also includes an account of the establishment of the first foundation, independent of Rathfarnham, established in Navan in 1833.

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