The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded by an Englishwoman, Mary Ward, in 1609. She pioneered a new way of religious life for women – ‘contemplatives in action’ within a self-governing congregation, free of enclosure, and responsive to the urgent needs of the time.
Mary Ward’s Institute was brought from England to Ireland in 1821 by Frances Teresa Ball where they became known as Loret(t)o Sisters. In response to requests Teresa sent sisters to India, Mauritius, Gibraltar, and then to Canada when Bishop Michael Power asked for teachers for the growing population of Irish immigrant children in Toronto.
On August 5, 1847 Teresa Dease, Gertrude Fleming, Ignatia Hutchinson, Valentina Hutchinson, and Bonaventure Phelan left Ireland, landed on September 16 at Cooper’s Wharf in Toronto, and began the first Catholic school on September 29. Despite hardships, deaths, and limited resources this small foundation grew to start new missions in Canada and the United States.
Today IBVM Loretto Sisters serve in Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, East Timor, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam, and Zambia.
Founder Teresa Dease 1820 - 1889
On September 17, 2022 a special anniversary Mass was celebrated at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, in honour of the founding of this mission. Watch the Mass now on Youtube and view our gallery of photos taken at the ceremony.
The Angel Foundation for Learning Celebrates the Sisters
On January 23, 2023, The Angel Foundation for Learning and the TCDSB will celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) in Canada. Read more about their celebration of the work of the Loretto Sisters on the Angel Foundation Website. Click on the image below to read more on the AFL Website.
The First Five: Loretto Sisters in Historic Irish Toronto Walking Tour
June 10, 2023
The walk will explore the early history & sites related to the Loretto Sisters and Toronto's early Irish community. Please see our events to register.