In Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries Catholic families, who could afford to do so, sent their children abroad to be educated. The Ball family, wealthy silk merchants in Dublin, sent their daughters Anna Maria, Isabella and Frances to the Bar Convent in York, run by the sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary who drew their inspiration from the spirit and ideals of Mary Ward.
After finishing her school days Frances returned to Dublin in 1808. She felt a deep desire to follow Christ in religious life and confided in a priest friend, Daniel Murray. Daniel later became Archbishop of Dublin and was instrumental in helping Mary Aikenhead to found the Irish Sisters of Charity and Catherine McAuley, the Mercy Sisters.
Archbishop Murray realised that if the church was to be revived after the persecution and suppression of the penal days, it was essential to provide Catholic education for the people. He invited the Sisters of the Bar Convent to establish a school in Dublin but they were not in a position to do so. He then arranged for Frances Ball to enter the novitiate in York and be trained by the sisters so that in due course she could return to Dublin and set up a house of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ireland.
Frances Ball, now known as Sister Teresa, returned to Dublin with two young women, Ignatia Arthur and Baptist Therry. In November 1822, they moved into Rathfarnham House, then in need of much repair. Since they were three in number they decided to name the house ‘Loreto’ after the village in Italy to which the Nazareth House of the Holy Family was said to have been miraculously transported. It is from this that the sisters became popularly known as Loreto sisters. The following year, 1823, the sisters opened a boarding school and a ‘free’ day school for the local children. This school, Loreto Primary School Grange Road, continues to thrive today.
The success of these first schools, prompted Daniel Murray to request Frances to open other schools within the diocese. However invitations then came from further afield so that, by the time of her death, Frances had opened thirty-seven convents and schools in Ireland and had also sent sisters to India, Canada, England, Spain. Today there are over 75,000 students throughout the world attending Loreto schools.
As well as supporting the work of education, today Loreto Sisters serve in many other ministries, answering the call to go were the needs are greatest. We claim Mary Ward as our founder and honour Mother Teresa Ball, the first sister to bring the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Ireland.
Mother Teresa Ball
1794 – 1860