Mary Ward saw a clear vision about a new active religious life for women, which was beyond her original desire for conventional religious life, and much beyond the general ideas of the time. Here, she is somehow in line with Paul, the apostle. After his encounter with Jesus, the risen Lord, Paul went in a totally different direction from his previous belief of salvation through the laws of God, and proclaimed the grace of God that made space for the Gentiles in the Church.
Mary Ward, on the other hand, worked to open a new chapter for women in the male-centred Church so that women can have a voice and serve actively out in the world. Although in Mary Ward’s time, unlike the early Church, the Church was firmly institutionalised and her request was not easily accepted, her mission did not cease and she started many schools and communities across Europe.
She invites us to do the same today – not giving up before the uncertainty of the world but letting God take us beyond our limits and do more for Christ. This relates to the principle “time is greater than space” that Pope Francis talks about in Evangelii Gaudium. No. 223 says, “This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. … What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.” This perfectly explains how Mary Ward had no boundaries in her mission and continued despite the opposition – she believed in God’s time.
Today’s world is experiencing dramatic changes in lifestyle due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with the increased restrictions in many areas of life and travel, it might give us a new insight into our identity as “pilgrim” when we look again at Mary Ward’s life as a pilgrim. Things change in theirs forms and character with the time, but not in the true essence. She teaches us to live in God’s time, to reach out to the people who are marginalized and isolated from the light of Jesus, and make our Church embrace them. We, Mary Ward Family, will keep on in this pilgrim life to wherever the need is greater, for the glory of God. Then how are we going to take that pilgrimage, and to where? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:28.