The Loreto Sisters of South Asia, headquartered in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, are currently marking 175 years of their presence in the region. “Remember, Reimage, Renew,” is the theme of the year-long jubilee celebration that officially kicked off with a Thanksgiving Mass on December 30, in Kolkata’s Science City auditorium.
Last week, in the first of a 2-part telephone interview with the superior of the Loreto Sisters of South Asia, Indian Sister Anita Braganza, we came to know a lot about her order. She narrated how a young group of 7 sisters and 5 postulants belonging to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), better known as the Loreto Sisters, landed in Calcutta, on Dec. 30, 1841, four months after setting sail from Ireland, never to return home. This intrepid band of women was commissioned by their Superior in Dublin, Mother Teresa Ball who appointed the eldest of them all, Sr. Delphine Hart, barely 23, as their leader. They came in response to the Calcutta Catholic community’s request for education of their girls. After landing in Calcutta, the nuns never looked back, and today they number 135 professed nuns, 14 novices and 8 candidates in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, engaged in 51 different ministries.
Sr. Braganza talked about how their original foundress Mary Ward, an Englishwoman began her ministry in the 17th century England where the Catholic Church was persecuted by the Protestants. Far ahead of her times, Mother Ward envisioned an active apostolic women’s order, headed by a woman, not a bishop, with members dressed in the ordinary habit of the people, and modelled on the spirituality of St. Ignatius and his constitution. However, Church authorities were not ready for all this and so she ran into problems with them. She went about Europe establishing schools, but because of the Protestant persecution, her association with the Jesuits and other historical reasons, her order was suppressed. Several of her centres and works continued functioning independently, some under bishops. One such centre came to be known as the Irish branch of the Loreto Sisters, pioneered by Mother Teresa Ball, under whose leadership the first group of nuns ventured out of Ireland and landed in India on Dec. 30, 1840.
Well today, in the final of this 2-part telephone interview, we asked Sr. Anita Braganza whether it is true that the Loreto institutions are meant only for the rich.