Our IBVM Heritage

Loreto Normanhurst is a congregational Catholic school.  This means that the school is under the care of a religious order, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Loreto Sisters. The school is also part of the Diocese of Broken Bay. 

The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) was established in 1609 by Mary Ward.  Explore pages in this section to find our more about the life of Mary Ward and her vision which underpins our school.

Values of a Catholic & Mary Ward School

Mary Ward’s vision of education, with its distinctive emphases, is located within the broader vision of the Catholic Church.

A Catholic school…

  • Is focused on the person and message of Jesus 
  • Is inspired by gospel values such as faith, hope, love, justice, mercy, compassion and the fruits of the spirit 
  • Seeks to infuse its faith worldview into all its activities, integrating faith and culture 
  • Recognises parents as the primary educators of their children

A Catholic school emphasises Catholic values and beliefs, such as:

  • People are essentially good,  made in God’s image, although flawed 
  • The principle of sacramentality – that God is in all things and the sacred is expressed and experienced in and through material things 
  • Relationship and community 
  • History and tradition 
  • ‘Wisdom rationality’, a reflective way of knowing – the role of reason, informed by love and wisdom 
  • Spirituality, seeking holiness of life and goodness 
  • Working for justice and social values 
  • Hospitality, seeking for the truth wherever it can be found

A school in the Mary Ward tradition…

  • Is primarily a Catholic school – committed to genuine reform and renewal of the Church at all times 
  • The spirit and values which inspired Mary Ward enrich its identity as a Catholic school – love of Jesus, freedom, justice, sincerity, verity, and felicity 
  • Has a profound belief in the capacity of women as significant contributors to both Church and society 
  • Provides a broad liberal education, with emphasis on the creative and performing arts and literature 
  • Respects intellectual rigour and breadth 
  • Forms habits of reflection and discernment in making choices and  “referring all things to God” 
  • Understands that “the teaching under the teaching” is important – sincere  relationships are central to the learning and development of all in the school community, and adults have a special responsibility to provide sound modelling. 
  • Aspires to the pursuit of excellence, not in a competitive or perfectionist sense, but in a transcendent way – in practice this means doing your best, then relying on God to do the rest 
  • Accepts the challenge of change – Mary Ward strove to educate in and for society, not apart from it 
  • Develops a social conscience in the members of its community 
  • Follows Mary Ward’s aim of educating young women “for a praiseworthy Christian life in the world” – living with integrity and hope.

The Mary Ward tradition in 21st century Australia

In 21st century Australian Loreto schools, there remains an emphasis on a broad liberal education, which values the creative arts and develops awareness of social justice issues.  The values which Mary Ward practised and preached – love of Jesus, freedom, justice, sincerity, verity, felicity and a profound belief in the capacity of women as significant contributors to both Church and society – are celebrated in contemporary Mary Ward schools throughout the world (see www.ibvm.org) and (www.loreto.org.au).

In 1998, the seven Australian schools in the Mary Ward tradition collaborated to develop a shared Mission Statement for Australian Loreto Schools (Honner, 1998), which attempts to translate those values into present-day reality.  Mary Ward’s inheritance of liberal thinking, breadth of vision, foresight, risk-taking and unshakeable belief in the potential of women, impacts significantly on all these schools. 

Mary Ward was always a loyal member of the Catholic Church (McClory, 2000).  Loreto Normanhurst, as a school in the Mary Ward tradition, is first a Catholic school and this is core to its identity.  Among Australian Catholic schools, Loreto Normanhurst is known as a ‘congregational’ Catholic school because it is under the control of a religious congregation rather than directly controlled by a bishop through a Catholic Education Office, which administers Catholic ‘systemic’ schools. 

Such congregational Catholic schools usually offer a broader range of curricular and extra-curricular offerings, have a lower student-staff ratio and charge higher fees to cover these costs.  Congregationally-owned schools are essentially Catholic schools, whose adherence to the core values of all Catholic schools is mediated through the charism of their religious congregation or Institute.  It is the duty of those in leadership and governance positions to nurture and develop these values.