Who we are
Despite centuries of struggle in a church and a world unprepared for Mary Ward’s pioneering vision, sisters of the Congregation of Jesus today are fulfilling her dream of apostolic service all over the world:
'There is no such difference between men and women
that women may not do great things'
Mary Ward 1617
Whether by working in schools and universities, prisons and hospitals, spirituality centres or chaplaincies, through spiritual direction, hospitality or social action for justice, we try to:-
- Live with passion
- Act with integrity
- Pray with desire
Our house in Willesden Lane, London is a base for the spiritual, educational and pastoral ministries of the Sisters, and for hospitality offered to members of our worldwide Congregation. Although we no longer live next door to St Mary's School
Hampstead we retain our links with the school, and we welcome all pupils, parents and staff of our former schools, and all those searching for God.
Over 100 years after the first sisters came to Cambridge, a strong network of relationships flourishes with St. Mary’s School
as well as within the city’s parishes, university
, hospitals and theological Federation
. Sr Frances Orchard, our Provincial, serves as a Governor of St Mary's School. Sisters serve in the parish and city in various ways, and a Sister is involved in local, national and international Justice and Peace initiatives.
Mary Ward sisters have lived for over 300 years in Britain’s oldest religious house, the Bar Convent
, York. Sisters in our York community share a life of prayer and service within the city, running a heritage centre and guest house in the Bar Convent, a Spirituality Centre at St. Bede’s
, and a house for their elderly, infirm sisters at St. Joseph’s. Sisters continue their 300-year-old link with All Saints’ School
, part of which was formerly the Bar Convent Grammar School., and one of the Sisters serves as a Governor.
Norwich: One of the Sisters continues to work in parish and pastoral ministry, and her service is greatly valued.
Ascot and Shaftesbury:
We keep in close touch with the schools we founded at Ascot and Shaftesbury. A Sister serves as Trustee at St Mary's School
, Ascot, and another serves as a Governor.
There are Sisters serving outside the UK: in Rome, where Sister Jane Livesey serves as the General Superior of the worldwide Congregaton of Jesus, Toronto (Regis College
), and the CJ Region of Zimbabwe.
WHO WE ASPIRE TO BE
• Women of prayer
‘I saw him evidently and very clearly go into my heart and by little and little hide himself...’ Mary Ward, 1619.
We belong to the Ignatian spiritual tradition
. The Eucharist is the centre of our daily prayer, the Word of God nourishes our faith and service. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are at the heart of a reflective life where we seek to make daily choices in love and freedom.
‘O happy begun freedom, the beginning of all my good’
Mary Ward, 1619
• Women together
Life in community is the opportunity to know Christ in breaking bread, sharing words, bearing one another’s burdens, touching Christ in others and being touched by Him through their care of us. A simple lifestyle, adapted to the needs and work of each person, reflects our desire to live in solidarity with the poor.
‘...that we be such as we appear, and appear such as we are...’ Mary Ward, 1615
• Women of Justice
‘That word ‘Justice’ and those in former times that were called just persons, works of justice, done in innocence... these things often since occurred to my mind with a liking for them’ Mary Ward, 1615
In solidarity with the poor we accept the challenge to live simply and to work together for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Sister Pat Robb is shown on the right with Sr Cynthia at an NGO meeting at the United Nations.
• Women educators
‘There is no such difference between men and women... as we have seen by example of many saints who have done great things’. Mary Ward, 1617
Mary Ward saw education as the best way for women to further their own gifts for the sake of God’s kingdom. Our tradition of education is now continued in a network of lay and Congregation-run Mary Ward schools throughout England and in educational services in every continent of the world. In our own commitment to lifelong learning and our apostolic work to develop the gifts of each human person, we continue Mary Ward’s dream.
‘Love truth, seek knowledge, not for itself, but for the end it brings you to, which is God’. Mary Ward
• Women who care for body and soul
For us, religious life is about a direct, intimate relationship with God in Christ, in the context of a loving and supportive community, which bears fruit in care for others, body and soul. In retreat work, spiritual direction, prison, educational, hospital and social ministries as well as in personal conversation, we find Christ who ‘plays in ten thousand places,lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his’ Gerard Manley Hopkins
From ‘Galloping Girls’ to Congregation of Jesus – why we changed our name
As Mary Ward’s vision of apostolic life for women on the Jesuit model was not accepted for centuries, we did not have an official name for many years, being known as ‘English Ladies’ or, by our enemies, ‘Galloping Girls’ or ‘Jesuitesses’. When we gained recognition in the C19th we took the name Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary and kept that name for over 100 years. This name is still held by the Loreto sisters, who share Mary Ward as their foundress. Mary Ward believed that God’s desire was for us to be called by the name of Jesus. When we were granted the full Jesuit Constitutions in 2004, as she had always dreamed, we took the name Mary Ward had wished to give us.