In our present time of instant communication and ease of travel, the story of Mary Ward and her life-long desire to seek and know God’s will, can seem like a struggle way beyond human resilience.
That an English woman, in Post-Reformation England, could believe the Catholic Church would approve a plan for religious women to be free from the jurisdiction of the Diocesan Bishop but governed by one of their own, free from the obligations of the cloister, focused on the mission of educating girls in a similar way to boys, and flexible enough to respond to the needs identified around them, seems outrageous, shocking and misguided. This is what Mary Ward came to understand as God’s will for her.
With the young women inspired to join her, she crossed the English Channel many times, traversed the Alps of Europe on foot three times to seek approval for her congregation and all along the way, she established houses and schools where she was welcomed and supported. And while she died under the shadow of the Inquisition … her congregation can be found today in over 40 countries, with more than 200 Mary Ward schools, colleges and informal education facilities and thousands of women and men proudly associated with her charism and spirituality.
She truly believed that there is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things, as we have seen by the example of many saints who have done great things.
On Pilgrimage with Mary Ward is an App that will spark memories if you have visited these places, tempt you to make a pilgrimage, or add some ideas for the next time you are near York and Yorkshire, London and Saint-Omer, Liège, Munich or Rome.
The App, currently available in English, will soon be translated into Spanish and German. To download the free App please visit the Apple store for iPhone or the Google Play store for Android devices.