Who we are
We are an international congregation of about 1400 sisters in twenty-four countries spread over four continents. Our international centre is in Rome. We were founded by the Englishwoman, the Venerable Mary Ward, in 1609 as an institute of unenclosed apostolic religious women.
Our Ignatian spirituality calls us to be:
- apostolic women in the Church
- promoters of faith that does justice
- available to go wherever the need is greatest
- contemplatives in action
Our name ‘Congregatio Jesu’ was officially adopted in 2003 in place of the earlier title ‘Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary’.
The origins of the name ‘Congregatio Jesu’
Following the enlightenment of 1611 to ‘take the same of the Society’ (of Jesus), Mary Ward never doubted that the name of her institute must be that of ‘Jesus’. However, she could not give her new foundation an official name because the Church never gave it the recognition she sought. Among the sisters they spoke about themselves as ‘the companions’ and ‘ours’. Their opponents and detractors named them ‘Jesuitesses’ and ‘galloping girls’. By common custom the sisters were often identified simply as the ‘English Ladies’, a description still in use in some places.
Within half a century of Mary Ward’s death the sisters had adopted the Marian title: ‘The Institute of Mary’. Shortly later this was changed to the ‘Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. It was under this title that the Church approved the institute in 1877, and at the inconclusive Union Congress of 1900 all branches of Mary Ward’s institute accepted this as the official ecclesiastical title.
The decision to adopt the name ‘Congregatio Jesu’ was taken at the General Congregation of 2002 when the Ignatian Constitutions ‘ad maximum’ were adopted. After nearly 400 years Mary Ward’s founding vision was at last realised.
The title ‘Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ is retained by the Loreto branch of the institute
“As for the name, twice in different years I have understood in as special a way as the other things I have related, that the name of Ours must be that of JESUS”.Mary Ward, Letter to Nuncio Albergati