The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto sisters) were given great cause to celebrate on 19 December last when Pope Benedict declared their foundress, Mary Ward, ‘Venerable’. This is the first step towards canonisation, and it was a cause of extra jubilation that the decree should have been promulgated during the 400th anniversary of Mary Ward’s founding grace. When she set up a religious community in Saint Omer in 1609, she intended to bring the spirit of the Jesuits to women. This met with great opposition as there was no precedent for consecrated women living uncloistered lives. Mary Ward was undeterred, however, and she eventually received all the approval she needed to continue her work. Read the press statement of the Congregatio Jesu and the IBVM below.
Joint statement from the Congregatio Jesu and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Cause for the Canonization of Mary Ward
THE VENERABLE MARY WARD
On 19th December 2009 His Holiness Benedict XVI formally promulgated the Decree recognising the ‘heroic virtue’ demonstrated by Mary Ward and thereby conferring on her the title ‘Venerable’. Her cause will now go forward to the next stage in the process towards beatification and eventual canonization.
Mary Ward (1585-1645) was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire who felt called by God to found a congregation of apostolic, non-enclosed religious women along the model of the Society of Jesus. She spent many years in Rome petitioning the Pope to recognise her new congregation, but in 1631 her order was suppressed and Mary Ward herself accused of heresy. No charges were ever brought but she remained under the shadow of the Inquisition in Rome and her congregation was disbanded. Mary Ward’s ideal of an active congregation of religious women serving the needs of the Church was too advanced for her time. She suffered at the hands of authorities who in different circumstances might have recognised the need for such a congregation. Only in 1877 was her congregation recognised by the Church and only in 1909 was Mary Ward allowed to be named as foundress.
The cause for Mary Ward’s canonization was opened in 1929. The historical research was begun by Fr Grisar SJ and completed by Sr Immolata Wetter CJ accompanied by the Postulator Fr Paul Molinari SJ and the Relator Fr Peter Gumpel SJ. This was accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1995. The theologians completed their investigation in May 2009 and recommended unanimously that Mary Ward demonstrated ‘heroic virtue’ and that her cause should go forward. This was confirmed by the commission of Cardinals and Bishops in November 2009 and subsequently by the Pope.
Mary Ward’s foundation exists today worldwide under the names Congregatio Jesu and Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto) with about 3,000 members. The sisters are in forty-four countries across five continents.
Sr Mechtild Meckl CJ
Via Nomentana 250
Tel +39 06 862 202 222
Sr Marian Moriarty IBVM
Via Massaua 3
Tel + 39 06 863 99 701