Mary Ward Week 2022: Reaching out and beyond

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From 23 to 30 January, the Mary Ward family worldwide is celebrating Mary Ward Week. The 23 January 1585 is the birthday of our foundress, the 30 January is the date of her death in 1645. This year, the celebration has a special focus, as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Loreto Branch of Mary Ward’s Institute.

Sisters of CJ and IBVM have created a booklet with thoughts and inspirations for each day of this special Mary Ward Week. We invite you to celebrate with us and to join our prayer.


Since the beginning of Mary Ward’s Institute in 1609, many women have been inspired by her understanding of the Ignatian call to the mission of Jesus. There have been thousands of vowed women, associates and friends, each in their own way taking the Mary Ward charism into their own ministry contexts – founders no less in their own way.

In this Teresa Ball bicentenary year 2022, we are asking you to think about and give thanks in a particular way for this Irish woman who initiated the Loreto Branch of the Institute. With this in mind, we are inviting you to consider the relationship between Mary Ward and Teresa Ball. Whilst we know they never met in person, as they were born two hundred years apart, we know that Teresa Ball took Mary Ward’s Institute to Ireland and then beyond into the five continents of the world.

For those less familiar with the Teresa Ball story, it may help you to know that she was sent as a 9-year-old child from her home in Ireland to the Bar Convent in York for her Catholic education. One of her biographers, Forristal (1994), tells us that when she arrived she was greeted by her elder sister Anna Maria, herself a pupil at the school, but who was about to return home as her education had come to an end. Anna Maria gave Teresa some wise words to hold onto during the years of separation from her family . . .

‘Seek first the Kingdom of God . . .’ What an extraordinary gift for an elder sister to give to a younger sister: a Gospel passage that would stay with Teresa and sustain her for the rest of her life. Similarly, we could think of Mary Ward as giving us a lifelong grace that she received while exploring her vocation – that she was not to be of the Order of St Clare; ‘some other thing I was to do . . .’ That ‘some other thing’, a founding grace of the Institute, is perhaps implied in the words ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’ [and also in Teresa Ball’s profession motto which marks her bicentenary:] ‘The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever’.

As a backdrop to the forthcoming week of prayer we suggest imaginative contemplation as described by St Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises as a method of prayer. A starting point might be to remember the Open Circle (PL 22) as a ‘Composition of Place’ – but in this instance to imagine a Spirit-led open circle with Mary Ward, Teresa Ball and yourself – a companion of our own time. As you take your place with them what conversations evolve between you?

We have selected a maxim of Mary Ward and Teresa Ball for each day to further support your reflections. These correspond to the dynamic of the week – reaching out and beyond – so that ‘some other thing’ can become embodied in our time. The maxims are selected to encourage us on our journey of discovery as one Mary Ward Family. This significant year, 2022, is not only the bicentenary of Teresa Ball but holds the possibility of an important movement towards the Becoming One of the two remaining branches of the Institute.

Sr Marion Bettenworth CJ – English Province
Sr Jen Bromham IBVM – English Region
Sr Anne O’Dwyer IBVM – Irish Province

Esther Finis