Ireland: the Loret(t)o Sisters

Frances Ball as a young womanFrances Ball as a young womanWhile the community in York was cut off from Europe by war, and had to exist independently for some time, it nevertheless made an enormous contribution to the spread of the Institute to much of the rest of the world. In 1814, a young woman from Dublin, Frances Ball, attended the school in York from 1803-1808, spent six years at home with her mother, and then responding to an interior inspiration “Seek you first the Kingdom of God”, she returned to York in 1814 to be trained in the community there with the purpose of bringing the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Ireland.

Frances Theresa Ball IBVM founded the Irish Branch of the Institute in 1821Frances Theresa Ball IBVM founded the Irish Branch of the Institute in 1821Because of its own precarious position, isolated from the rest of the institute in Europe, the English foundation at York was unable to assume responsibility for a new foundation, so when Frances Teresa Ball and two companions left England in 1821, the community which they would establish in Ireland was independent of any other community of the IBVM. The two communities, the one in York and that of Ireland, maintained a close bond of affection in spite of their separation, a bond still exists today between the York community and all the Loreto houses established around the world.


The present day Loreto Branch is spread over five continents and consists of 10 provinces and one regionThe present day Loreto Branch is spread over five continents and consists of 10 provinces and one regionThe name which these early pioneers in Dublin adopted was that of Loret(t)o. It was by this name that all IBVM communities founded from Ireland have been known for over 180 years. The community spread throughout Ireland, and the deeply missionary spirit of the Irish led to a generosity that saw missions established in India (1841), Gibraltar (1845), Mauritius (1845), Canada (1847), Manchester, England (1851), South Africa (1877), Australia (1875), Spain (1889) and Kenya (1921). From Canada, a mission was established in Joliet, Illinois, USA, in 1880.

The Loretto Sisters in North America were established as an independent branch of the Institute in 1881, but were reunited with the founding branch in 2003. Loreto sisters are now found in these countries as well as in new missions in Tanzania, Nepal, Morocco, Ecuador, East Timor, Bangladesh, Seychelles, Zambia, Ghana, Albania and southern Sudan. New missions are being planned elsewhere.