Loretto Sisters in Canada

Photo of IBVM Canadian Foundress Mother Theresa DeasePhoto of IBVM Canadian Foundress Mother Theresa DeaseIn 1847, at the request of Michael Power, Bishop of Toronto, Teresa Ball sent five young sisters from Ireland to Canada to serve the needs of the immigrant Irish population. They arrived in the midst of a raging typhus plague; within two weeks the Bishop, who had been helping to nurse the ill in the ‘fever sheds’ was dead, and for some time the community struggled under severe conditions of poverty and deprivation, extreme temperatures, and loss through sickness and death of some of its original members. A new bishop was appointed three years after the death of Bishop Power, and soon the youngest of the group, Ellen Teresa Dease, was named the Superior of the tiny mission; new sisters were sent from Ireland to join her. As well, young women from the Catholic community in Toronto began to enter the congregation, promising new hope in these fragile beginnings. The sisters taught in two different kinds of schools: the ‘free’ school for non-paying pupils (thus setting the stage for the development of separate, publicly-supported schools in the province of Ontario), and the convent school for young ladies from families who could afford to pay tuition.

Loretto Abbey Wellington Street, TorontoLoretto Abbey Wellington Street, TorontoTheir reputation for good education led to invitations to Teresa Dease from priests in other towns of Ontario to establish communities in other locations. By 1880, in addition to the Toronto foundation, there were communities and schools in: Brantford (1853-1859); London (1855-1856); Guelph (1856 to the present); Belleville (1857-1865, 1876-1889); Niagara Falls (1861 to the present); Hamilton (1865-1981); Lindsay (1874-1890); Stratford (1878-1973). Loretto Academy in Niagara Falls Ontario in 1875Loretto Academy in Niagara Falls Ontario in 1875All of these foundations were educational; where the community remains today the tasks of the present Loretto sisters have expanded, and in the recent past have included other kinds of ministry, including outreach to the poor, ministry to prisoners, retreat work and spiritual direction, work with refugees, parish ministry, education by correspondence, collaboration with local bishops in the work of religious education, and a variety of other works as needs have arisen. All of this is in keeping with Mary Ward’s expressed intention of 1616, that the members of the Institute devote themselves to promote the good of their neighbour by the education of girls or by any other means that are congruous to the times, or in which it is judged that we can by our labours promote the greater glory of God…