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LORETO IN AUSTRALIA, by Mary Ryllis Clark

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 Contents - Mar 2010AD2000 March 2010 - Buy a copy now
Annunciation: Benedict XVI: Mary's acceptance of the Divine Word
Secularism: Benedict to UK bishops: resist secularist threat - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Netherlands: Remnants of faith in Europe's most secularised nation - Marina Corradi
Year for the Priest: English-speaking clergy: first ever international conference - Fr Glen Tattersall
Courage: A Catholic psychologist exposes 'gay' myths - Marie Mason
Culture of Life: Cardinal Pell receives pro-life von Galen Award - Babette Francis
Archbishop Saldanha reports from Pakistan - Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha
Foundations of Faith: What the Second Vatican Council really said - John Young
Conversion: Paul Fitzgerald: my spiritual journey - Paul Fitzgerald
Youth: Summer School of Evangelisation: helping young people's faith - Johanna Banks
Events: AD2000 - Passover Meal - 30 March 2010
Letters: Climate censorship - Michael Griffiths
Letters: Genuine ecumenism - Rev Fr M. Durham
Letters: Evil laws - Ken Bayliss
Letters: Common sense - Maureen Federico
Letters: Faith alone - Frank Mobbs (Dr)
Letters: Women priests - Robert Prinzen-Wood
Letters: Seminarian's prayer - J. Loring
Holy Week: Holy Week 2010: Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy (1962 Missal)
Books: Adrienne von Speyr: THE BOUNDLESS GOD and CONFESSION - Br Barry Coldrey (reviewer)
Books: THE GOD WHO LOVES YOU, by Peter Kreeft - Br Barry Coldrey (reviewer)
Books: LORETO IN AUSTRALIA, by Mary Ryllis Clark - Katharine Munro (reviewer)
Gaudeamus igitur: University graduation: a young Catholic's Valedictory Address - Michael Gleeson
Books: Order books from
Reflection: Mary in medieval art: an expression of the Church's faith - Bishop Arthur Serratelli

by Mary Ryllis Clark
(UNSW Press, 2009, 336pp, hardback, $49.95. ISBN 978-1-74223-031-3. Available through Freedom Publishing)

This is an engaging story of how the Loreto nuns came to Australia from Ireland in the 19th century. It also describes the life of Mary Ward, the courageous English woman who founded their order in 1609 during the reign of James I.

As an educated woman, Mary Ward believed that young girls needed a thorough Catholic education, similar to that of boys, and decided to dedicate her life to God and the education of young women with the watchword, 'women in time to come will do great things!'

For many years this was a difficult and dangerous path to traverse as in 17th century Protestant England Catholics still practised 'undercover'. As well, her then radical ideas for women were initially thought to be heretical by the Catholic hierarchy.

However, in spite of excommunication, the banning of the Order and the imprisonment of Mary Ward in Munich, following a Papal Bull of Suppression in 1631, there was gradual and eventual acceptance from Rome of the Loreto Order/Institute.

Even within the Institute itself, only a few nuns had remained loyal to Mary Ward as founder.

However, despite these setbacks, over the next two hundred years Loreto schools spread to Ireland, Europe and India.

It was from Ireland that Mother Gonzaga Barry set out in 1875 with eight sisters for Australia. They first established Mary's Mount in Ballarat and then proceeded to build schools throughout Australia, soon proving themselves to be at the forefront of Catholic education for girls.

At times they received advice from another pioneer of Catholic education in Australia, Mary Mackillop.

Their vision was to provide excellent Catholic education for all young women with fees not charged for education, only for those who could afford to board. Later the nuns were to assist in the training of teachers and to become involved in tertiary education.

New challenges

New challenges came after Vatican II with religious communities called on to revisit the roots of their founders. This prompted the Loreto sisters to re-examine the original constitution of Mary Ward.

Some sisters would experience difficulties, as for example with the change and ultimate disappearance of the religious habit, although it should be recalled that Mary Ward and her 'English Ladies' of the 17th century were obliged to wear lay attire during the post-Reformation period when Catholics were persecuted.

As well, while following a life of prayer and austerity, they needed to be free from being cloistered in order to carry out their work in the community.

Today, many Loreto nuns work throughout the world in projects for social justice in line with their mission of education for all.

Over the centuries the Order has grown, changed and developed while keeping to the vision and spirituality of its founder. An early influence had been the Jesuit Order in England which sought 'to see God in all things and practise discernment while being contemplative in action'.

This book is a must read for former Loreto students, but also an inspiration for all to have faith and perseverance in carrying out their mission in life.

Mrs Katharine Munro attended Loreto colleges in Melbourne and St Albans (England) and is an active parishioner in Ringwood, Melbourne Archdiocese.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 23 No 2 (March 2010), p. 18

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