There is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things, as we have seen in the example of many saints who have done great things. And I hope in God that it will be seen that women in time will come to do much.”- Mary Ward, 1617, founder of Loreto Sisters.
Having successfully started Loreto Msongari School for European girls in 1921, the Loreto Sisters, who had come from Ireland, embarked on a mission to establish a school for African girls.
At the time, African girls were denied the right to an academic education by retrogressive cultural practices and the colonial administration did not give much priority to African education anyway.
On December 6, 1936, Loreto Limuru School opened its doors for the first students. Situated some 7,300 ft. above sea level in the sprawling highlands of Limuru in Kiambu District overlooking the lush green tea estates owned by European settlers, the school, being for Africans, had to be located across the “raini” (line) in the Native Reserve at Karambaini approximately 28 kilometres (17 miles) northwest of the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya.
The pioneers of this school were sisters S.M. Dolores Stafford, S.M. Theresa Joseph O’Sullivan and S.M. Veronica Bradley. They believed as did Mary Ward, their founder in 1609, that through education women could achieve much.
The school began with seven girls but due to the severe cold and mist at this altitude, the girls disappeared overnight. Later, the girls returned and the first task for the sisters was to prepare them for the primary examination.
In 1938, the school presented four candidates for the primary exams, which they passed and commenced their teacher training course. Subsequently more girls were enrolled, and the school began to grow.
The first secondary class began in 1947 and in 1950 two students, Mary Sekunda Wanjiru and Merioth Wairimu passed the Senior Cambridge Certificate Examination. This was the beginning of a long history of excellence in public examinations at the school.
This being the only Catholic secondary school for African girls at the time, demand was high, and a double stream was introduced in 1956 with each class having between 20 and 26 girls. In 1958 the school was elevated to national status, which it still holds to date.
Today, the institution has an enrolment of 800 students with five streams per class.
It has maintained a high level of academic performance over the years and is one of the top schools in extra-curricular activities such as netball, hockey and music.
The legacy of Mary Ward is undoubtedly deeply embedded in the Loreto Sisters throughout the world. She had a strong conviction to minister God’s will and felt that women should not be limited in what they should be allowed to do.
She often said; “I will do these things in love and freedom or leave them alone.”
The Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a follower of Mary Ward and her achievements are well documented globally.
Our very own Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late Wangari Maathai, studied at Loreto School Limuru between 1956 and 1959 where she excelled in her studies.
The life of Wangari Maathai in her fight for the environment perfectly immortalised the ideals of Mary Ward, which possessed a very universal human appeal.
Other notable alumni of the school include Eunice Muringo Kiereini, Kenya’s chief nursing officer between 1968 and 1986 responsible for overseeing and developing nursing after independence, Wanjiku Kabiria, academic and author, Ng’endo Mwangi, first female physician in Kenya, among many others.
The spirit of Mary Ward has truly been passed on to students by the Loreto Sisters.