We are an apostolic order of women religious, founded by Mary Ward in 1609. She believed that women could ‘do great things’ in the service of God, and struggled against the prejudices of her time to establish apostolic religious life for women, adopting the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit model of life and mission.

Today, her vision continues to inspire and challenge us:

  • to be contemplatives in action, finding God in all things
  • to live as companions of Jesus, sharing his mission to the world
  • to be lovers of truth and workers of justice, in the light of the gospel
  • to be women of freedom and generosity, available to go wherever the need is greatest

‘As companions of Jesus in mission, we are called to be women of hope in order to bring hope… Mary Ward calls us to be rooted in God, passionate for Christ, courageous prophets ready to take risks.’

General Congregation 2011

Becoming One

Mary Ward’s vision was for one apostolic institute, with the same constitutions and charism as the Society of Jesus, including its own general superior. The Church suppressed this fledgling institute in 1631, but this did not deter Mary Ward and her companions from pursing their desire for recognition by the Church to serve God in a new way.

As Mary Ward’s institute grew in numbers and spread across the globe over the centuries it divided into various smaller institutes influenced by the local bishop, politics, geography, poor communications and the need to compromise to continue to exist. What is extraordinary is that all the various groups clung to much of Mary Ward’s vision: ‘women, in time to come, will do much’. However, the culture of Church and society remained hostile. In 1877 the Church eventually recognised Mary Ward’s institute, but not its founder. This did not occur until 1909. Among the many letters of delight at this news was one written by M. Michael Corcoran, General Superior of the Irish Branch, to M. Gonzaga Barry, the Australian Provincial, and is dated from Gibraltar 7th May 1909:

“We are all in great delight here. We sang the Te Deum and said the Magnificat after Mass for nine days in thanksgiving. Now we must pray for five ‘actions’ as we have obtained our holy Mother’s justification: Her Beatification; Unification of the whole Institute; Organization of the Institute (common and suitable Constitutions); Renovation of the Institute by a renewal of fervour; Canonization of our Holy Mother’. And all these speedily” (RA II / 0739)

 A century has passed since this letter was written and none of the actions listed have been fully realised. We hope and pray that the ‘Unification of the whole Institute’ (referred to as ‘Becoming One’) may now come speedily.

For further information on ‘Becoming One’ see

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.

Serve God with great love and liberty of mind.

Mary Ward