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Mary Ward

Loreto College, Kolkata, was established in 1912 by the Religious of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (I.B.V.M.). The order was founded by MARY WARD (1585-1645), a dynamic English Catholic lady, in an age when Catholics were persecuted in England. Europe was torn by religious dissension and women’s rights were generally ignored. A determined visionary, she managed, with the help of some devoted companions, to set up schools for young women.

In 1625, she established a religious order for women with very unusual features. Women religious were usually cloistered, under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, Mary Ward envisioned a very active order, working in the society at large for the education and upliftment of both rich and poor women. She asked for self-government under direct Papal jurisdiction. Mary Ward faced condemnation within the Catholic Church and suppression of her order, as her plans were far ahead of her times. However, she remained convinced that "women in time to come will do much". A second institute, known as the ’Institute of Mary’ was established in her lifetime but its Rule was approved in 1703, when Pope Clement XI declared "Let women be governed by women". In 1877, Pope Pius IX sanctioned the Institute. It was in 1909 that Mary Ward was publicly acknowledged as the Foundress of the Institute.

Plans drawn up in the 17th century by "that incomparable woman" (as Pius XII called her in 1951) became the model for most modern women’s congregations. Meanwhile, Mary Ward’s own legacy had spread throughout Europe, where they were known as ’the English Ladies’. Amongst these, the Irish Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in 1822 at Rathfarnham, under Reverend Mother Frances Mary Teresa Ball. The nuns of the Irish Foundation came to be known as the "Loreto nuns", from the name of the famous Italian shrine where Mary Ward had often worshipped.


In 1841, one year after a grand church dedicated to the Sacred Heart was erected at Rathfarnham, Reverend Mother Ball faced an unusual request. The Archbishop of Calcutta, Mgr. Carew, conveyed to her the necessity of sending volunteers to Calcutta. On August 23, 1841, Reverend Mother Ball sanctioned the request. A band of 12, led by Mother Mary Delphine Hart, set sail on September 1, 1841 from Ireland and reached Calcutta on December 29, 1841. A great civic reception was held the next day, and after a formal welcome and religious ceremony at the Cathedral on Portuguese Church Street, the nuns were conveyed to their new residence at Middleton Row

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