About Mary Ward (1585-1645)

The 17th century Yorkshire woman, Mary Ward, founded a new form of religious life for women based on the model of the Society of Jesus. Her vision was to free women from the cloister to work with people in the world “wherever the need was greatest”.  

“I had no other desire than to give myself over in all these difficulties and place myself with these uncertainties into the hands of God.”
Mary Ward

Mary Ward paintingIn a Europe torn by religious division where individuals were defined by their faith, her strength lay in her belief that women had “direct and open access to God”. Her ideal of an active congregation of religious women governing themselves was too advanced for the Church of her time, her work was suppressed and she herself denounced as a heretic.

No charges were ever brought but she remained under the shadow of the Inquisition. Unofficially her Institute continued and was finally recognised by the Church in 1877. It wasn’t until 1909 that Mary Ward’s status as founder was acknowledged by Papal Decree.

In 2009 the church declared Mary Ward ‘Venerable’, thus vindicating her completely and publicly declaring her a woman of ‘heroic virtue’. Her Institute exists today worldwide under the names Congregation of Jesus (CJ) and Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM Loreto) with about 3,000 sisters in 44 countries across five continents.  

Read more about Mary Ward in these published articles:

Pioneering Educator Who Challenged Rome By Sr Jane Livesey CJ, Provincial Superior, Congregation of Jesus, England, Published in The Tablet, Jan 09.

Mary Ward Reflection - Commemorative Mass York Minster By Gemma Simmonds CJ, Jan 09.

An Irishwoman's Diary Sarah Mac Donald, The Irish Times, Feb 09.

Mary Ward and Catholic Education for Today, Dr Leoni Degenhardt PhD FACE FACEL, April 09.

With Courage and Decisiveness She Opened the Way, Sr Christine Burke ibvm, Provincial Leader, Loreto Sisters Australia. Published in Australian Catholics June 09.

The First Sister of Feminism, Simon Caldwell, The Independant UK, 11 June 09


Mary Ward © Geistliches Zentrum Maria Ward Augsburg, Foto Tanner, Nesselwang.

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