On Sunday, May 3, the Loretto Sisters celebrated the 400th anniversary of their foundation in 1609. St Paul's Church, in the parish to which they came in 1847, provided the magnificent backdrop for the liturgy at which Archbishop Collins was the main celebrant and homilist.
The fact that it was Good Shepherd Sunday, often an occasion for celebrating religious vocations, was well used both by Archbishop Collins in his homily and by Sister Evanne Hunter I.B.V.M., Canadian Provincial Superior, pictured at right, who spoke powerfully about the "outrageous hope" which kept Mary Ward going when everything seemed to oppose what she knew God was asking of her.
Rather than compromise her call to found a community of women, "autonomous, with a rule based on that of the Jesuits, approved by Rome, to do great things," she died without seeing her hope fulfilled. But she never abandoned her "outrageous hope." Evanne encouraged all of us to have such hope.
Loretto Sisters, their present and former students, and friends of the Institute who made up the congregation responded in full voice and joined in the congregational singing.
The Archbishop told us that his great-grandfather had welcomed the Sisters when they first arrived in Guelph and taught with them in the Catholic school there. He himself has known them since he was in grade one, and claims to be one of a very few bishops who can still sing the musical version of the maxims of Mary Ward.
He noted the significant contribution of the Loretto Sisters to Catholic education in the Toronto Archdiocese and elsewhere. These Sisters provided an academic education of the highest order, as well as contributing to the moral formation of their students.
The Irish ambassador, whose daughter had been educated by the Loretto Sisters in Ireland, spoke warmly of the Institute and the courage of the Mary Ward and her companions in founding the congregation at a time when Catholicism was outlawed in England. Mary Dease and her companions who braved the terrible conditions of travel to the new world in 1847 and once here, faced the sickness that carried off four of the original contingent in the first five years provided further evidence of the continued fortitude of the Sisters.
A reception was held on the parish grounds under the large L-shaped tent, a perfect setting on this bright, sunny day.
By Mechtilde O'Mara CSJ
Photo used with the permission of the Loretto Sisters