Insight Out: Celebrating 175 of the Loretto Sisters in Canada 

Angela Convertini graduated from St. Michael’s College in 1977, majoring in French and Italian, and received her Bachelor of Education from OISE in 1978.  She completed the Degree of Master of Science in Education from Niagara University in 1986. In 1992 she received her Ontario Supervisory Officer certification (SOQP). In September 1978 she was hired by the then-MSSB and began her career in Catholic education at Loretto Abbey, serving as teacher and then Vice Principal. In 1989 she was Principal on Assignment with responsibility for Special Education in secondary schools, then Principal at Loretto College School, Cardinal Newman (now St. John Henry Newman Catholic High School), and Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School.  In 2004 she was seconded from the TCDSB to be Dean at Loretto College Women’s Residence, at St. Mike’s, where she remained until 2016.  After several years of assisting her beloved parents in Niagara Falls, and volunteering at Queenston Place Retirement Residence, she has returned to Toronto and is presently serving on the Loretto Abbey Parent Association’s Spirit and Culture Committee, and on the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto.  

As we prepare to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Loretto Sisters’ landing in Toronto on September 16, 1847, I have reflected on my Loretto experience, and the impact it has had on my life and my time at St. Mike’s. 

Angela Convertini
Former Dean of Loretto College Women’s Residence, Angela Convertini

My introduction to Loretto goes back to elementary school in Niagara Falls, where the Loretto Sisters were my teachers and principals. From there I went to Loretto Academy, and then to St. Michael’s College and Loretto College Women’s Residence, where I was active in student government and became a Don. In 2004 I returned to be Dean of Women. 

A Loretto education meant being steeped in the values of Loretto founder Mary Ward. Justice, integrity, and freedom were not just words for us. These values became a part of our decision -making, our interactions with others and, in short, of our lives. 

I have so many wonderful memories of my years in residence at Loretto College. The many social activities in conjunction with St. Mike’s, including the weekly Friday night pubs in the COOP and the coffee houses where we could share our musical and literary talents, were great opportunities for the young men of St. Mike’s to elevate their language and behaviour in the presence of the young women of Loretto! 

Life at St. Mike’s was not all social. We did, in fact, attend classes and study. I fondly remember Fathers Charles Principe, and Richard Donovan, whose classes in French language and literature provided a wonderful foundation for me as a future French teacher. Father Belyea’s lectures were stimulating, thought-provoking and always generated interesting, and sometimes heated, discussion as varying points of view were debated.  

In those days, the student liturgies in St. Basil’s basement chapel were very special. We at Loretto were greatly involved in the planning of the “folk Masses”. We actively participated as lectors, musicians, and members of the choir. The Basilian priests were not just celebrants at Mass once a week but were present in every aspect of life on campus, from the Chapel and the classroom to the COOP. 

Loretto College Residence
Loretto College Residence

During the 70’s social justice was front and centre at Loretto. Through the many workshops and talks we attended and sponsored we became aware of the terrible conditions under which the workers in California migrant camps were living and working. Under the leadership of our Dean at the time, Sister Carolyn Dawson, we decided to support labour activist Cesar Chavez by boycotting lettuce and grapes at the residence. Furthermore, we began to speak of the injustice with our families and friends, thus broadening the scope of our boycott, while educating the larger community. 

The Loretto Sisters have made major contributions to St. Mike’s academically. Like many before them Sisters Olga Warnke, Frances Nims and Marion Norman were extremely well-respected and loved professors for many years at St. Mike’s, and I dare say, have become legends. 

During my years as Dean, the Loretto Sisters were in the forefront regarding environmental issues. They were the first on campus to install solar panels on the roof of the College, and to renovate to conserve hydro and water. With incredible patience, the Sisters, the staff, and the students survived the many months of major renovations. In the end all were delighted with the results. 

In collaboration with the Mary Ward Centre at Loretto College, Loretto and St. Mike’s students had an opportunity to minister to the homeless in Toronto. On Saturday mornings throughout the winter months, the students would gather at Loretto to make sandwiches and prepare hot drinks to take along on the homeless walk. This ministry proved to be a deeply spiritual experience for many. 

In essence, I believe the contribution of Loretto to St. Michael’s College can be summarized by the lessons we strive to inculcate in each of our students, whether they are in our classrooms, or in our residences.  

Loretto empowers young women to challenge injustice and to work toward just and meaningful policies and laws. It teaches love of God, love of self and neighbour, and stewardship of creation. Loretto teaches endurance, resilience, determination and even joy in hardship. Loretto also teaches hospitality, generosity, openness, optimism, and laughter. 

I truly believe that Mary Ward’s values of justice, integrity, and freedom contribute to making St. Michael’s College the wonderful community it is, and to making the world a better place.  

Please join the Loretto Sisters and Associates at St. Michael’s Cathedral at 10:00 a.m. on September 17, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the Loretto Sisters from Ireland.  Learn more about the history of the Lorettos and their contributions to the community from our 100 Years of Women’s Education at St. Michael’s College timeline.

Read other InsightOut posts.