Year of Consecrated Life 2015: Mary Ward and the Congregation of Jesus

Gemma Simmonds CJ

The Year of Consecrated Life begins in November 2014. This article looks at the present day Congregation of Jesus and the contemporary expression of the charism of its founder, Mary Ward.

Gemma Simmonds CJ is Director of the Religious Life Institute at Heythrop College, University of London

In this year of celebration of consecrated life it seems good to pause and reflect on the role which that life has played in the Church. Consecration, as found in vowed religious life, always begins with a life story of an individual or a group gifted with a charism. But these charisms are given for the Church itself, not just for them, in their time, and they evolve and adapt themselves to the changes of history. The story of Mary Ward?s attempt to found an order of women based on the Jesuit model is part of English Catholic history, but it also belongs to the present time and to women and men in the Church far beyond the bounds of England. There are historical particularities about her struggle to find a place for apostolic women religious in the Church. In society as a whole women have battled with male prejudice against social roles perceived as unsuitable. In the seventeenth century this was expressed as hierarchical resistance to women working outside monastic enclosure and without control by male authorities.

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