This quilt was made by the students of the Loreto schools in Ireland to mark the celebration of 400 years of Loreto education in the tradition of Mary Ward.
Since its foundation, the Loreto Institute has been involved in education. With almost 150 schools worldwide and 5,500 staff members serving 70,000 students, Loreto has an international network of schools and colleges.
In Ireland there are over 30 schools under Loreto trusteeship. Of these, sixteen are Voluntary Secondary schools and seven are Primary/Junior schools, and two in Northern Ireland are Voluntary Grammar schools.
Loreto also shares trusteeship with others in five Community schools. Four other primary schools in Ireland and Gibraltar also retain links with Loreto.
To understand the story of all Loreto schools, it is necessary to return to the beginnings of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) founded by Mary Ward in 1609 at St Omer in Belgium. Mary Ward, born in 1585 in Yorkshire, grew up in times of religious persecution in England. Her deep faith in God inspired her to pioneer a new type of religious life for women, one that would allow them the freedom to respond to any apostolic need, rather than operate within the confines of enclosure, as was the norm for women religious of the time. Her chief concern was the "care of the faith" through the education of girls, and her schools were modelled on those of the Jesuits. Grounded in Ignatian spirituality, Mary Ward believed in the capacity of women as well as men to find God in the ordinary experience of human life. In her own time, it seemed that she fought a losing battle, culminating in the suppression of the Institute, her own imprisonment and the closing of the schools. From early and difficult beginnings in Flanders, Bavaria and England, Mary Ward`s Institute spread, during the next four centuries, over five continents. Nearly 400 years later, the spirit of Mary Ward continues to inspire us and Loreto schools are part of an international network of friendship, education and shared values, imbued with the Mary Ward tradition and determination of women "to do much" with their lives. Present Loreto schools belong to an international family of IBVM schools throughout the world.
In 2009 we celebrated the four hundreth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) by Mary Ward who was inspired by the spiritual teachings of St Ignatius Loyola. We joined with the global community of Loreto schools to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events included our Mary Ward concert, joining with the Irish Loreto schools for Mass in the Cathedral in Mullinagar, a visit by two of our students to a Loreto school in Kenya and a return visit by Kenyan students. Another highlight of the year was the visit by Sr Cyril Mooney, principal of Loreto Sealdah, Calcutta. Each student in the school was presented with the above badge as a memento of the year.