Loreto was founded by His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekanem of blessed memory, through his foresight and generosity, shortly after his Episcopal installation as the first Catholic Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese, Nigeria in 1963. His dream was to establish an Institution purely and exclusively for the moral, spiritual and academic training and formation of young girls to be well equipped to fit into our contemporary Societies. According to him,” to produce for the Church and Nation, women with the right spirit of Christian leadership”......
It could be very thrilling and fascinating to go down the memory lane of the inception and establishment of Loreto, keeping in view the different important but challenging stages of her life metamorphosis into a full fledged post primary Institution today. Loreto was founded by His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekanem of blessed memory, through his foresight and generosity, shortly after his Episcopal installation as the first Catholic Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese, Nigeria in 1963. His dream was to establish an Institution purely and exclusively for the moral, spiritual and academic training and formation of young girls to be well equipped to fit into our contemporary Societies. According to him,” to produce for the Church and Nation, women with the right spirit of Christian leadership”.
He conceived this noble and lofty idea while praying in the ancient Grotto of our Lady of Loreto in Italy. On his return to Nigeria in the said year, with the unalloyed assistance and benevolence of late Chief Alphonsus Tom and late Mr. Bruno Ekaidem, upon his passionate request, a vast parcel of land was generously donated by the entire people of Afaha Obong for the said project. His intention to site Loreto in Afaha Obong was to enable some of the teaching staff members of Queen of Apostles’ Seminary located in the same Village/ zone to assist in the teaching at Loreto too. Late Mother Mary Gertrude Waturuocha, the then Superior General of the Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus (HHCJ) voluntarily accepted the management of the Institution as it was eventually proposed to her by Cardinal Ekanem. In 1965, she appointed late Sr. Mary Elizabeth Umoh and Sr. Marie Louise Azide respectively as the Principal and the Vice to pilot the affairs of the Institution. With alacrity, late Sr. Mary Elizabeth Umoh spearheaded the physical development and transformation of that parcel of land, part of which was a thick forest, into a Secondary School premise.
On February 11th, 1966, the first batch of the students arrived. On Monday, February 14th, 1966, the first Holy mass was celebrated at Queen of Apostles’ Seminary, Afaha Obong, Abak to mark the official opening of the School. The students had to trek with lanterns along the available foot paths to attend the Holy mass since there was no road and no means of transportation at the time. The first formal lessons were also taught on that same day. The students numbered sixty on roll – a double streamed School with seven pioneer teachers, namely: Rev. Fr. McCartney and Rev. Fr. Coyle of Queen of Apostles’ Seminary who taught music and supervised the building construction work respectively. Others were Mr. Dominic Udo Akpan, Sr. Marie Louise, Miss B. Afangide, Miss M. Ekoriko, two labourers and a night security man. The School took off with only one building which served as classrooms, hostel and administrative office. A refectory was improvised with a shade for the students. The Principal and her assistance used the two existing stores as their apartment with very few or no furniture for their comforts and had to share the only available bathroom with the students. Life was somehow difficult with the students as there was no pipe borne water supply. The existing stream in the locality had a strong traditional inclination which forbade women to go there on some specified days (i.e. Usen Ibet Idim) of the week. The management of the School had to dialogue seriously with the villagers to this end. Eventually, thanks to the constant fervent prayers and the celebration of Holy masses for this intention, the ancient law was finally abolished. And the students could, from then henceforth, freely and safely fetch some water for their use from the said stream.
The Nigerian civil war (1966 – 1970) disrupted the academic activities at Loreto Girls’ Grammar School, as it was then called just before the outbreak of the said unrest. In July 1967, the School was officially closed down when the Eastern Regional Government ordered for the closure of all the Schools in the whole Region. On resumption, most of the students could not return to the School again for various personal reasons. Hence, some boys were transferred from Queen of Apostles’ Seminary Afaha Obong which had then become a refugee camp to Loreto for safety reasons. Fifty six (56) lay boys and some girls from the locality who could not return to their former schools due to the civil war aftermaths were also admitted into Loreto. Today, some of them have become Bishops, Monsignors and priests to the Glory of God.
Loreto was formally approved of as a full fledged Secondary School by the then South Eastern State Ministry of Education on March 9th,1970. And also obtained an official general recognition for WASC/GCE examinations from WAEC, Lagos, Nigeria in April 1971. The School presented for the first time twenty one (21) candidates who performed excellently well in the 1971WASC examination. Loreto also embraced the new 6 – 3 – 3 – 4 education system of Nigeria with an approval obtained on May 21st,1985 and presented her candidates for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination for the first time during the November – December 1990 session.
Spiritual life and character formation are given the pride of place at Loreto where the students are imbued with deep spirituality through full participation in the liturgy, other spiritual exercises and the practice of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1976, the School was renamed Loreto Girls’ Juniorate by the then Principal, Rev. Sr. Mary Ligouri Okure, to reflect its status as an Institution primarily for Evangelization. Many vocations to the religious and priestly lives have been nurtured here. The first student to become a professed religious (nun) was Agnes Chad Umoren in 1970 - a pioneer student. In 1973, six students joined the sisterhood. From then on, varying number of responses were made until in 1987 when the Lord made a huge catch of sixteen from the graduating class of that year. Today, many daughters of Loreto are eminent personalities who have distinguished themselves in different walks of life, secularly and religiously as medical practitioners, teachers, lawyers, university lecturers, social workers, lady knights and dedicated housewives, to mention but a few.
Rev. Sr.( Dr.) M. Ligouri Okure significantly spearheaded the erection of the School’s Chapel called The SEAT OF WISDOM through her selfless efforts and sacrifices as the then principal in 1988. The Institution continued to grow from strength to strength in terms of infrastructure, sports and social. Loreto participated in many schools athletic, cultural and musical competitions and always came out indomitably with flying colours with many golden and silver trophies for winning mostly the first and second positions both within and outside the State. These laudable achievements were made possible by dint of hard-work, determination and the high level of self discipline that characterize the training at Loreto.
The Loreto P.T.A. was inaugurated in 1979. Since its inception, the Association has played an important role in ensuring the welfare of the School and by working harmoniously to successfully execute meaningful projects and programmes in the School. For instance, organization of the annual sports festivals, reception of important church and political dignitaries in the School, encouragement and maintenance of high academic standards and discipline among the students. The Association built a fence around the school to beef up the security of life and property therein and also purchased a 32 – seater coaster bus, a Toyota Camry and is currently embarking on a new academic storey building which shall soon be completed in the School.
In 2009, the then State Governor, Chief Dr. Godswill Akpabio established and commissioned the staff quarters, renovated the Rev. sisters’ convent building and also donated a Mikano SP 60 generator to the School. May God bless all our benefactors and benefactresses and reward them richly in Jesus Name. Amen.
In 1989, after the transfer of His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekanem to Abuja Diocese as its first Archbishop, the mantle of proprietorship was taken over by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus A. EtokUdo, the local ordinary of Ikot Ekpene Diocese before being transferred to Port Harcourt Diocese. With the Episcopal ordination and installation of the new Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus R.Umoh for Ikot Ekpene Diocese, he incidentally became the current proprietor of Loreto. He commenced his paternal job with his pastoral visit to the School on June 17th,2012, during when he administered the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation to the deserved catholic students and some members of staff.
Presently, with the population of the students of about 507, an active workforce of academic and non-academic staff, Loreto Girls’ Juniorate is like a colossus towering vehemently in terms of academics, discipline and moral standards. The school has five dormitories including one built by an ex-student, Obong Awan Grace Ekpenyong, a storey building of classrooms, the science laboratories building, a well equipped computer Science laboratory, a definitive refectory, a hall built and donated by the Mobil Producing Company, Eket, a multipurpose storey building housing a modern Library, administration offices and a well furnished staff room; and two functional boreholes and a diesel generating plant for steady water and light supplies in the school, respectively.
In 2011, the first Auxiliary, Mr. Dominic Ekpaidot was sent to the school by the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus R. Umoh, the present local ordinary of Ikot Ekpene Catholic Diocese, to join the team of formators at Loreto. In 2010, Rev. Sr. Mildred M. Udoh was officially sent to administrate Loreto as the Principal. Her selfless sacrifices, hardwork and commitment have positively contributed in no small measure in giving a phase lift to Loreto in terms of the provisions of infrastructure and modern amenities thereby making the environment, stimulating, friendly, serene and conducive for both the academic and moral growth of the students. We appreciate the current Chaplains, Rev. Fr. Oscar P. Umoh, Rev. Fr. Isidore I. Uko and all the Ikot Ekpene Diocesan priests and religious for their selfless contributions, individually and collectively to the spiritual and moral upkeep of Loreto. May God bless them all in Jesus Name. Amen.