Mary Ward was born on January 23rd 1585, in Elizabethan England, at a time of great religious intolerance. She saw the need for a sound religious education for young women who would assume responsibilities in the society and in the church, for, as she said, ‘Women in time to come will do much’. Inspired at the tender age of 15 to renounce the world, she decided to dedicate her life to God, having refused many proposals of marriage.

In 1609, she left her homeland and, with a small group of companions, opened a school at St. Omer, Flanders, where girls were taught reading, writing and sewing, as well as the principles of Christian life.

She had a passionate love for Integrity, Justice, and Freedom and she consistently endeavored to live out these qualities. The new type of consecrated life which she began free form enclosure without religious habit and ruled by a woman-received much opposition. This vision of a woman’s role in the church was unacceptable and looked upon with suspicion in those days. In 1631, Mary Ward’s Institute was suppressed and she herself was imprisoned as a heretic for some time.

Mary Ward, described as “a woman beyond compare”, died at York on January 30th 1645. “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone” (John: 12, 24). The serenity and confidence with which she accepted all kinds of sufferings, even physical ones, her fidelity to the Church despite multiple tribulations, made of her the “grain of wheat” sown by God and which, after the rebirth of her Institute, would bear fruit world-wide in all the continents, down to the present day.


Frances Ball was born in Ireland in 1794, and educated at Sr. Mary’s Convent, a boarding school run by the members of the institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in York, England. She heard the unmistakable call of god: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Justice and all these things will be added unto you”. At the age of twenty, Frances returned to York to enter the novitiate, preparing herself for the foundation of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ireland. She professed her vows as Mother Teresa. In 1821, Mother Teresa Ball established the first House of the Institute in Ireland and called it Loreto, the name by which all the subsequent schools/ institutions originating from Ireland are still known.


Loreto in India owes it origin to a visit made by Dr. Bakhaus to Loreto Abbey, Ireland, in 1840 to request Mother Teresa Ball to send some sisters to set a school for Catholic Children in Calcutta.

In 1841, Mother Teresa Ball sent 7 Loreto Sisters and 5 Postulants, all in their twenties, under the leadership of Delphine Hart to India, announcing that they would probably never see their homeland again. They were welcomed at Calcutta by Bishop Carew, and installed at Loreto House, 7 Middleton Row. They were the first congregation of sisters to come to North India. When relieved of her office at the appointment of the first Provincial Superior, Mother Mary Delphine asked to be sent to Hazaribagh, a quiet retreat where she could prepare for death. An old pupil of Hazaribagh now a nonagenarian, tells that she remembers Mother Delphine going the rounds of the dormitory to see that the girls were well covered, and bringing a hot drink to those who sat up with the sick. “She was so kind – so kind”. She died, quietly, in July 1889 and was laid to rest in the little rose-draped grotto of the Abbey grounds.


Calm, gentle, yet firm, was marked out as eminently trustworthy in difficult posts. So, when the opening up of Darjeeling was decided on, Mother Teresa was appointed its first superior. The chance came two years later, when Bishop Hartmann, claiming the new convent, appointed Mother Mary Joseph Hogan as the Superior. Mother Teresa had gone to Calcutta as soon as she heard of the change of jurisdiction. Bishop Oliffe, who knew her worth, was anxious to secure her for his new diocese of Dacca, and wrote inviting her and enclosing the travelling expenses. But Mother Teresa declined; she would return to the loneliness and poverty of Darjeeling; she explained that as she had been the Foundress of the house. She was delighted to hear that the new Superior was to be her teacher and friend. Mother Joseph, the nun who had prepared her for her first Holy Communion. For the greater part of her life in Darjeeling, Mother Teresa was Mistress of Schools.

What the writers did not know was that the Head Mistress put on her apron every evening to clean the children’s shoes. For seven years, she fulfilled the duty of Mistress of Novices, gently instilling into her charges the practice of perfection in the smallest duties of the day. She was worn out by 1880, and the doctor thought a winter in Lucknow might save her, she realized that it would mean death away from the Superior and the community she loved, but acquiesced in the final sacrifice as in every other arrangement of Divine Providence.

of Loreto Convent, Darjeeling

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