Loreto College - Coleraine, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland
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Students and staff from Loreto College on the steps of Armagh Cathedral - View Full Size Image
Students and staff from Loreto College on the steps of Armagh Cathedral

Students and staff from Loreto schools throughout Ireland took part in a special Mass to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Mary Ward, who founded the Loreto Order in 1609, in Mullingar Cathedral on Saturday 24th January 2009.  Loreto College Coleraine, Specialist School, was among those represented at the event, with a contingent of 50 students, staff and members of the Loreto Community travelling to the event.

The chief celebrant of the Mass was the Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Brady. The Bishop of Meath Most Rev Michael Smith presided, and the concelebrants included Fr Joseph Gallagher, administrator at the Cathedral, curate Fr Paul Crosbie, Msgr Dan O’Connor parish priest at Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Fr Gerard McCormack of Navan parish, Msgr Joseph Kehoe of Gorey parish, and Fr Liam Lawton, who was commissioned to write the music for the celebration.  Loreto general superior Sr Marian Moriarty, who is based in Rome, was among those representing the congregation. Others included its Irish provincial Sr Teresa MacPaul and Sr Ríonach Donlon of the Loreto Education Trust. Sr Teresa McGinley represented Loreto sisters in India, Sr Colette Deasy represented sisters in Mauritius, while Sr Mary Gitau represented those in eastern Africa. Also present at the Mass was a representative group of Loreto students and teachers from Gibraltar, Mandeville Hall, Melbourne and Rumbek, south Sudan. Among the congregation of an estimated 2000 people, 1700 were pupils in Loreto schools across Ireland, with the remainder representing boards of management, parents, staff, and past pupils.

In his homily, Cardinal Brady detailed the history of the congregation from initial persecution to being one of the most widely-respected institutions in the Catholic Church.
The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to give the Loreto congregation its proper name, was founded in 1609 by Yorkshire woman Mary Ward, who was born in 1585. It was Frances Ball, a Dublin woman, who brought the congregation to Ireland in 1821, when the first school was opened in Rathfarnham. Mother Teresa of Calcutta trained as a Loreto sister in Rathfarnham.

The Mass was the opening event of a year of celebrations which will mark the establishment in 1609 of the Institute from which the Loreto Order was founded, and of a network of schools worldwide.  The celebrations will reflect the principles underlying the Order, of sincerity, freedom, justice, joy and truth and its work reflecting the glory of God in all creation.