Mary Ward and St Ignatius were inspired by the ideal of the disciples, who journeyed together, sharing in Jesus’ life and mission. We too live and pray together as ‘friends in the Lord’, sharing our joys and difficulties, and working together for the Kingdom of God. In community we find support and strength to go out to others in mission, and our life together also challenges us to grow in generosity through service of one another.

Our communities range in size according to their place and purpose; some are attached to a place of shared work or mission, while others are home to sisters engaged in a range of apostolates. We have communities based in York, Cambridge and London, as well as sisters living and working in Canada, Zimbabwe and Norwich.

‘To proceed as Christ did was the portion of grace I only desired for my part, and all the happiness I wished for in this life.’

Mary Ward

The English province of the Congregation of Jesus has its roots in the Bar Convent, York. After Mary Ward’s death, and despite the suppression of the order she had founded, some of her companions opened a school and community in York in 1686. The harsh penal laws against Catholics meant that the convent, led by Mother Frances Bedingfield, had to function in secret for decades. Under the disguise of laywomen, the nuns ran a flourishing school for Catholic girls, and undertook ministry among the poor and sick of York.

Today, the Bar Convent is England’s oldest living convent. It hosts a Living Heritage Centre, which tells the story of the convent itself, its origins in the vision of Mary Ward and her determination to educate Catholic girls, and the work of the Congregation of Jesus today. While the sisters no longer run All Saints School, which is still on the site, the Bar Convent is a centre for education, and we welcome groups, researchers and CJ and IBVM visitors from all over the world. It is also a centre for hospitality, with a bed and breakfast and café.

St Bede’s Pastoral Centre

Since it was founded with the help of the Ampleforth Benedictines in 1987, the St Bede’s Pastoral Centre has provided an ecumenical resource for all those searching for God, and training for those who seek to accompany the journey of others.

As well as offering a range of lectures and courses from visiting speakers, St Bede’s runs a regular programme of training for spiritual directors. St Bede’s is a place of acceptance and healing, and it plays a vital role in offering support to voluntary agencies working with those on the margins of society.

Paul Golightly is the current director of St Bede’s. Find out more via the St Bede’s website.

Our School Links

For many years, the mission of the English province centred on school-based education. The Bar Convent was our first school, opened in York in 1686; this was followed by St Mary’s Ascot in 1885, St Mary’s Cambridge in 1898, St Mary’s Hampstead in 1926 and St Mary’s Shaftesbury in 1945. With the exception of St Mary’s Shaftesbury, which closed in 2020, all of these schools are now run by lay trusts, who continue the work of handing on to a new generation Mary Ward’s vision of women –and men– who can do great things in the service of God and others.

Pilgrimage to Mount Grace

18 May, 2024

On Saturday, 18 May, our annual pilgrimage to the Chapel of Mount Grace took place. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were delighted that so many of the Friends of Mary Ward were able to join. Sadly, no IBVM sisters were able to be with us this year as they were gathering for funeral. We spent hours in prayer – in the Chapel, in the grounds, in walking a section of the Cleveland Way. We ended by joining the locals for the Saturday Mass in the Chapel, and then picked up a few of them for the grand photo! Our prayers were focussed very much on peace in our troubled world, for the beatification of Mary Ward, and for our own intentions. Flora looked after our needs with endless cups of tea. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2025.

A visit from our Mary Ward Associates

We were delighted to welcome two groups of Mary Ward associates to the Bar Convent in April 2024:

First, a group of 23 senior staff from a variety of IBVM institutions in Australia. They came having prepared well for the visit and it was a delight to meet and accompany such a committed and well-informed group. They visited the main Mary Ward places in Yorkshire and below is a photo of them outside Mulwith.  They have now moved on to Europe to engage with other centres connected with Mary Ward. We were delighted to have them with us.

Shortly after we had said good-bye to the Australian group, the IBVM and CJ tertians (School of the Heart) arrived from Ireland. This was an international group consisting of sisters from India, Nepal, Korea, and Kenya, and they too spent a rewarding time visiting the places associated with Mary Ward. Some of them are in the photo below, having tea with the St Joseph’s community.