When I reflect on Mary Ward and the 21st century, I think of the gift of friendship. I feel her message to “let your love at all times be rooted in God, and then remain faithful to your friends, value them highly, even more highly than your life” will renew us in these times. At the Friends of Mary Ward Conference in York England 2017, Elaine, Gemma and Imelda spoke on Mary Ward’s relationship with God, her companions, and the inspirational women who came after her through times of danger, scarcity and uncertainty. When her vision was misunderstood and vilified by the religious of the times, it did not diminish or deter her or these women from moving forward in their mission of education and justice for women and girls, for she knew through God “women in time to come will do much”.
For over 30 years, I have worked in a shelter for abused women and their children. Now I facilitate groups to educate and create awareness to end violence against women. I am no stranger to oppression, the strength of women who make change and the power of friendship. Mary Ward and her companions mirrored that struggle to remain constant in God’s vision despite structures and institutions that oppressed her vision and her work. My Associate relationship with the sisters who bear her legacy, has given me hope in my work that deals with the same challenges, and a renewed connection to my spirituality and Jesus to help sustain me. In the associate relationship, I have learned about missions, education initiatives, schools carrying forward the love of Jesus and heritage of Mary Ward’s vision. Our sisters have envisioned a way to continue to further Mary Ward’s mission in relationship with God, to bring education and justice to our world even into the 21st century. Our circle meets in friendship as companions on a journey to learn and bring forward issues as well, like the #MeToo movement, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Human Trafficking and supporting education initiatives in Africa.
I pray this vision of friendship, circles and companionship will endure and grow in these disconnected, frightening and often dark times. When I facilitate groups, I sense a divine presence, especially when I feel that I am not enough and I have no answers to the struggles women face. When I stop worrying, trust the process and let go, God brings together the right people to heal our mistaken beliefs and stories, so we can be the divine spark we were born to be in this world. During the conference, Imelda gave this analogy of hope when she closed her talk about the difficult issues of human trafficking. She shared during a drumming exercise at a workshop in Canada. She was surprised to hear so many inexperienced drummers with no practice making a good sound together. Then she noticed the leader was keeping a steady beat. This allowed each person’s unique drumming to enhance the sound but stay in union. For me this echoed Mary Ward’s legacy. Like the drums, with constancy and clarity she, her companions and followers could hear God’s message and throughout time, this beat from God has kept his truth and will lead us forward. She was a woman ahead of her time and for all times …Without fear or anxiety expect in quiet confidence that God’s dream will emerge in the confusion – Mary Ward.
How do I feel called and challenged like Mary Ward to respond to the needs of this century?
Linda Ivsins -Friends of Mary Ward, Canada