Mary Ward Foundress of the Loreto Sisters
Mary Ward was born into an upper class catholic family in Yorkshire in 1585, in an age of religious intolerance. The Catholic Church was suffering persecution in England but within the Catholic Church women were considered to be weak and fickle creatures, capable only of the married state or a strict cloistered religious life. Mary enjoyed much greater freedom and independence than was available to women in most catholic countries at that time. She received a good classical education within the home environment. She enjoyed music and art and spoke several languages including Latin. She was a deeply spiritual person, who believed in her faith.
Mary saw the potential of women and the need for their education. She dared to found a congregation of religious women with a freedom from religious enclosure and a readiness for apostolic works which would put them at the direct service of the Church. 1609 saw the beginnings of this foundation. She travelled throughout Europe to set up communities and schools. She would confer with Bishops and Catholic princes on her proposals for the education of girls. Her teaching was based firmly in the Gospel values and she upheld the principles of Truth, Justice, Sincerity, Freedom and Joy, which we recognise in our Mission Statement.
However, she was in advance of her time and such innovations aroused fierce opposition from within the Church and her institute was suppressed.
Mary was above all a woman of prayer and her trust in God never faltered. After her death, small groups of her companions remained steadfast until the first Episcopal recognition in 1680 gave them hope. Eventually the apostolic Institute founded by Mary Ward received official confirmation from the Church in 1877.
Mary Ward was declared “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI on 19th December 2009; this is the first of three steps to being declared a saint.