The Reflection She Needs

At Loreto Toorak, we believe that overcoming challenges can lead to incredible things. It is through these challenges that our school was born.


Four hundred years ago, English woman Mary Ward faced extraordinary opposition to establish the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) - also known as the Loreto Sisters. Mary Ward had a vision for a different mode of religious life for women, whereby they would live a life inspired by the gospel, and be free of the traditional cloister that placed them under the governance of men. Most importantly, she believed that women deserved an equal education to men.

The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), more commonly known as the Loreto Sisters, was introduced into Australia in 1875, in response to a request for nuns by Dr O’Connor, the first Bishop of Ballarat. Mother Gonzaga Barry came with a group of seven women to Ballarat on 20 July, having left Loreto Abbey, the main house of the Irish Branch of the Institute, in Rathfarnham, Ireland, in May 1875.

The Loreto sisters established schools in Ballarat (1875), Melbourne (1889), Sydney (1892), Perth (1897), Adelaide (1905), Toorak (1924) and Brisbane (1927), always with the aim of the pursuit of excellence in education with a spirit of freedom, justice and sincerity. They also took over the running of a number of Victorian Parish Primary Schools, established the first Central Catholic Teacher Training College (1906), encouraged the establishment of the first Free Catholic Kindergarten (1912) and the first female Catholic, residential college - St Mary's Hall (later College) at the University of Melbourne (1918).

On 24 August 1924, the Loreto Sisters purchased Mandeville Hall and at first used the stables as a convent, the Dining Room (Oak Parlour) as a chapel, the Drawing Room as a reception room, several first floor bedrooms as boarders dormitories and the remainder of the mansion for community purposes and classrooms. On 25 September 1927, Archbishop Daniel Mannix laid the foundation stone of the Chapel of Christ the King, with the first Mass celebrated on 12 May 1928 before the formal opening in October of that year.

Read more about the Life of Mary Ward


The Name Loreto

“Loreto” was the name given to the first house of the IBVM in Ireland at Rathfarnham, and originates from a popular place of pilgrimage in Italy. Loreto had been a place of devotion for Mary Ward, who travelled across large parts of Europe enroute to Rome. Mother Teresa Ball - the founder of the Irish branch - was unaware of this when she chose the name “Loreto” for her first foundation in Dublin.

Loreto Crest

It is thought that the Loreto Crest was developed by Mother Teresa Ball, in the 1850s as an expression of her spirituality. The basic shield is the Family Crest of our Founder, Mary Ward.

There are four symbols on our School Crest:

Loreto Toorak Crest

The Cross
The cross reminds us that we love God. And when we see it, we’re reminded to always do the right thing - even when it seems hard.
The Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart reminds us that the most important thing is for us to love God and one another.
The Loving Heart
The loving heart reminds us of Mary, who is very special for all Loreto girls. When we see it, we remember to say a prayer to Mary.

The Anchor
The anchor is strong and steadfast. It reminds us that there’s always hope for us when we pray.

What do the words on the Crest mean?

“Maria Regina Angelorum”, means Mary, Queen of the Angels.

“Cruci Dum Spiro Fido”, means in the Cross, while I breathe, I trust. This means we will always believe in God’s goodness and know he will always look after us.


Loreto Australia and South-East Asia

The shared mission of Loreto involves thousands of people including sisters, colleagues and volunteers who work in Australia, the Philippines, Timor Leste and Vietnam, and around the globe.

Together we carry the responsibility of continuing the legacy of our Founder Mary Wardin the spirit of Freedom, Justice and Sincerity through educating young women, working for justice and responding to the needs of our time.

Click here to visit the Loreto Province of Australia and South East Asia website.