The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), better known as the "Sisters of Loreto”, are currently celebrating 175 years of their presence in South Asia. "With immense gratitude to God we celebrate the arrival in India of the first sisters, who 175 years ago brought the love of God", Sister Anita M. Braganza, head of the religious Province of South Asia told Vatican’s Fides news agency.
Twelve brave Irish women, that included 7 nuns and 5 postulants, set sail from Ireland, where the congregation was founded in 1609 by the Englishwoman Mary Ward, landed in Calcutta, British India, after 4 months on Dec. 30, 1841. Averaging 19 years of age, the Loreto nuns headed by 23-year old Mother Delphine Hart, never intended to return home. Based in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, the congregation spread to many parts of India, Nepal, Bangladesh.
"That experience was the result of a missionary zeal: a life dedicated to mission, saying goodbye to their loved ones, with no plans to return home,” noted Sr. Braganza. “Catholic nuns were the first to set foot on Indian soil, in particular by contributing to the training of women and children from all social classes", Sr. Braganza.
“Remember, Reimage, Renew,” is the theme of the year-long celebration of 175 years of the Sister of Loreto of South Asia, that began on December 17. One of the highlights is a walk in Kolkata on Sunday, Jan. 8, from the Governor’s Raj Bhavan palace to Loreto House.
It was the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland that St Teresa of Kolkata joined as a postulant in 1928 at age 18, in order to come to the eastern Indian city as a missionary. She arrived there the following year. After a spiritual experience regarded as "the call within the call" in 1946, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Sisters in 1950. Pope Francis declared her a Saint on Sept. 4, last year.