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.’
The Bar Convent
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.
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. 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.