Three Loreto nuns receive awards for work in education, health

‘Bravery and humanitarian commitment’ of Sr Orla Treacy recognised by awarding body

 Sr Orla Treacy speaks to pupils at the Loreto secondary school in Rumbek, South Sudan, where she is principal.

Sr Orla Treacy speaks to pupils at the Loreto secondary school in Rumbek, South Sudan, where she is principal.


It has been quite a year for Ireland’s Loreto sisters with three of them winning humanitarian awards on three continents.

Last Saturday, Sr Orla Treacy received the 2017 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award for her work in South Sudan, where she has spent 11 years.

It follows the awarding to Sr Patricia McLaughlin of the Palmas Magisteriales award, the highest honour in education in Peru, last July.

The previous month Sr Mary Owens received an award from the Kenyan Government in recognition of her work on the Anti-Retroviral Therapy programme in that country.

Sr Orla Treacy, from Bray Co Wicklow, “displays the bravery and humanitarian commitment” associated with recipients of the O’Flaherty award, its memorial committee said.

“At a young age and with a bright future ahead of her in Ireland, she decided instead to dedicate her life to those in need in what was already then a virtual war zone.”

Born in 1973, she was 24 when she decided to join the Loretos after spending a summer with them in India. Professed in 2005 she was sent to Sudan with four other Loreto nuns to establish a mission in a diocese the size of Italy, with just two secondary schools.

Becoming independent in 2011, South Sudan has been riven by civil war. Sr Treacy is currently principal of a Loreto secondary school at Rumbek, Lakes State, in South Sudan which caters for over 500 boys and girls.

In receiving the Palmas Magisteriales award in Peru, Sr Patricia McLaughlin was one of just five people so honoured each year.

Sr Mary Owens’ award from the Kenyan Government was in recognition of her work in providing care to those affected by HIV but in particular for her advocacy work in persuading pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to make drugs available to children in Kenya.

The Loretos - named after a Marian shrine in Italy and also known as the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) - were founded in 1609 by Venerable Mary Ward, a Yorkshire woman.

In 1821 Dublin woman Teresa Ball brought them to Ireland where currently they are best known for their schools, particularly, secondary schools for girls.