Mother Mary Gonzaga Barry came to Ballarat in 1875 from Ireland to found the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Loreto Sisters, in Australia. An inspirational leader, she initiated a philosophy of education that was noted for its foresight and comprehensiveness.

Mary Barry was born on the 24th July 1834 in Wexford, Ireland. After being educated at the Loreto Abbeys in Gorey and Rathfarnham she entered the IBVM at Gorey on 24th August 1853 at the age of 19, receiving her religious name, ‘Gonzaga’.

While still a novice, M. Gonzaga was appointed Mistress of the Day School at Gorey. At the age of 25 she was appointed Mistress of Novices and in 1867 Superior of Gorey. She founded a convent and high school in Enniscorthy in 1872.

In response to an appeal by the Bishop of Ballarat, Dr. O’Connor, Mother Gonzaga was asked to lead a mission to Australia to begin a Loreto school in Ballarat. With nine companion Mother Gonzaga arrived in Melbourne on 19th July 1875, traveling the next day to Ballarat.

  1. Gonzaga and her nuns stayed at the St. Alipius Presbytery until a property in west Ballarat was purchased and opened as Loreto Abbey, Mary’s Mount, in September 1875.
  2. Gonzaga believed that the world needed ‘wise, loveable and well-educated women’ and to this end she ensured that a broad education was provided in the schools she founded. Soon after establishing the school at Mary’s Mount, Mother Gonzaga founded a Loreto Day School in Dawson Street Ballarat and, to ensure that a Loreto education was as widely available as possible, took over the running of the Parish Schools of St. Joseph’s Ballarat and St. Aloysius Redan.
  3. Gonzaga founded Loreto convents, primary and secondary schools, parish schools, a teachers’ college and kindergartens in Ballarat, Portland, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Hamilton and Adelaide.

She was a pioneer in teacher training and established a Teachers’ Training College on the Dawson Street site in 1884, one of the first providers of tertiary education for women.

She was deeply committed to the liberal education of girls from kindergarten to tertiary levels and to the welfare of the women and girls. She brought together groups to work for those in need, such as the Ladies of Charity in Ballarat which grew to number five hundred, and Loreto past pupils who established the Loreto Free Kindergarten in Melbourne.

Mary Gonzaga died at Mary’s Mount, Ballarat, on the 5th March 1915 and is buried in the Mary’s Mount Convent cemetery

Loreto Archives

Mary MacKillop is the co-founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She is Australia’s first saint canonized on 17th October 2010.

Mary Helen Mackillop was born in Brunswick Street Fitzroy on 15th January 1842. She began work in Melbourne as a clerk and, at the age of 18, Mary and her financially struggling family moved to Penola in South Australia where she provided for her family by taking up the post of governess to her Cameron relatives.

Mary Mackillop’s connection with Portland began in 1862 when she came as a governess and subsequently a teacher in the denominational school. At the end of 1863 Mary and her sisters began ‘Bay View House Seminary for Young Ladies’. This house was to become Loreto Convent in 1884, now Bayview.

Mary developed strong friendships in Portland particularly with the Finn family who lived next door to Bayview Cottage. Mary Finn, mother of Loreto’s Sister Angela Finn, was received into the Catholic Church by Father Tenison Woods and her sponsor was Mary Mackillop. She kept a close relationship with both all their lives.

Mary continued to teach in the denominational school until the unpleasant incident when the head of the school replaced his poorly prepared pupils with Mary’s well prepared pupils for the school inspection. This scandal together with the ill health of two of her sisters led to their return to Penola at the end of 1866.

Father Julian Tenison Woods, co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Penola’s Parish Priest, had plans for Mary to run a school in Penola. In answer to her call to serve God through educating and caring for the poor, the homeless and destitute, and Fr. Woods’ wishes, Mary and her sisters rented a small house, in Penola, Winella Cottage, unofficially the first Josephite Convent. Their first school was opened in a disused stable.

On 15th August 1867 Mary made her first religious vows as Sister Mary of the Cross.

Trouble with misunderstandings and false charges let to Mary’s temporary excommunication in 1871. The church politics of the times continued to dog the new order throughout Mary’s life.

After opening schools, homes and orphanages in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand, the first Victorian foundation was made in 1890. The Sisters of St. Joseph settled in Numurkah and Bendigo and established their first school in the Melbourne Archdiocese in Bacchus Marsh, in May 1890 a Children’s Home in Surrey Hills and in October 1891 St. Joseph’s Providence in Latrobe Street. Later these were followed by “St. Joseph’s Syrian School” in Cumberland Place and schools and orphanages around Melbourne.

It was during this time that Mary would have had most contact with the Mother Gonzaga Barry, the founder of Loreto in Australia. Maggie Cameron and her sisters, the daughters of Mary’s uncle by marriage and his second wife, were past pupils of Mary’s Mount in Ballarat and the Cameron family supported both orders. The extant correspondence suggests that Mary Mackillop and Mother

Gonzaga Barry were close friends and stayed at each other’s convents when necessary. Mary Mackillop stayed in Ballarat when setting up the Bacchus Marsh school and when on a country tour begging for funds for the Surrey Hills home. M. Gonzaga stayed in the Josephite Convent in Sydney when founding the Sydney houses.

Mary suffered a stroke in 1902 while in New Zealand and spent the rest of her life in a wheel chair. She died on 8 August 1909 in the Josephite Convent in North Sydney.

(Gardiner, Paul SJ, An Extraordinary Australian, Mary Mackillop,


Other sources of Mary MacKillop information (Bayview College can not accept

responsibility for content of external links/sites):

• Mary MacKillop, Flinders Ranges Research

•Mary MacKillop Foundation

• Mary MacKillop Place

• Australian Dictionary of Biography; Mary MacKillop

The 17th century Yorkshire woman, Mary Ward, founded a new form of religious life for women based on the model of the Society of Jesus. Her vision was to free women from the cloister to work with people in the world “wherever the need was greatest”. “I had no other desire than to give

myself over in all these difficulties and place myself with these uncertainties into the hands of God.”

In a Europe torn by religious division where individuals were defined by their faith, her strength lay in her belief that women had “direct and open access to God”. Her ideal of an active congregation of religious women governing themselves was too advanced for the Church of her time, her work was suppressed and she herself denounced as a heretic.

No charges were ever brought but she remained under the shadow of the Inquisition. Unofficially her Institute continued and was finally recognised by the Church in 1877. It wasn’t until 1909 that Mary Ward’s status as founder was acknowledged by Papal Decree.

In 2009 the church declared Mary Ward ‘Venerable’, thus vindicating her completely and publicly declaring her a woman of ‘heroic virtue’. Her Institute exists today worldwide under the names Congregation of Jesus (CJ) and Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM Loreto) with about 3,000 sisters in 44 countries across five continents.

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