We are followers of Venerable Mary Ward, a noble and great woman who Catholic England gave to the Church. Currently, there are two branches of the congregation that she founded: the Congregatio Jesu [CJ] and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary [IBVM]. Her sisters are present in many parts of the world carrying forward the ministry she started.
Life of Mary Ward
Mary Ward was born in Yorkshire on the 23rd January 1585, at a time when practising the Roman Catholic faith in England was illegal, and she died on the 30th January 1645 at the age of 60. She grew up surrounded by faithful and courageous women who were determined to keep the faith alive. Through the influence of visiting Jesuits who risked their lives to serve as Priests on the mission in England, she became familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, and with the Jesuit model of life and mission.
Mary Ward left England in 1606 in order to enter religious life, initially joining the Poor Clares in St Omer. When God showed her that life as an enclosed nun was not her vocation, she returned to London, where she worked in the Catholic underground with a group of like-minded young women. In 1609, she and her companions left London for Flanders, where they lived in community, seeking God’s will for their life together. In 1611 Mary Ward received her answer from God: the community was to ‘take the same of the Society’ – the same spirituality and mission as the Society of Jesus.
Mary Ward spent the rest of her life developing or founding a congregation for women based on the Jesuit model. She and her companions walked from Flanders to Rome to try to gain Papal approval for their new foundation. As they travelled, they founded houses and schools across Europe, in cities as far apart as Munich, Naples and modern-day Bratislava, while other members of the young community remained in England, working in secret to support Catholics in their faith.