Rowan Williams to pay tribute to “unique woman of vision and faith”

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury will lead a special celebration at Westminster Cathedral this Saturday in honour of Mary Ward, who has officially reached the first stage towards sainthood, and the 400th Jubilee of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ) and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) which she founded.

Archbishop Nichols will be chief celebrant at the Mass. Dr Rowan Williams will give a post-Communion address.

Some might say there is irony here for Dr. Williams. In her time, Mary Ward was accused by her own church of rending the fabric.

Mary Ward was a Yorkshire woman who, at a time of severe repression of Roman Catholics in England, felt called by God to found a congregation of religious sisters on the model of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus). Her vision was for a non-enclosed order of religious sisters who might serve their faith actively as educators and missionaries across Europe, set free from the restrictions of monastic life as the Jesuits were. In an era when women were considered intellectually and morally incapable of doing good for themselves, let alone for others, Mary soon came into conflict with the Papal authorities.

Read it all in Independent Catholic News.

From the church’s news release as found at National Catholic Reporter:

Mary Ward (1585-1645) was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire who felt called by God to found a congregation of apostolic, non-enclosed religious women along the model of the Society of Jesus. She spent many years in Rome petitioning the Pope to recognise her new congregation, but in 1631 her order was suppressed and Mary Ward herself accused of heresy. No charges were ever brought but she remained under the shadow of the Inquisition in Rome and her congregation was disbanded. Mary Ward’s ideal of an active congregation of religious women serving the needs of the Church was too advanced for her time. She suffered at the hands of authorities who in different circumstances might have recognised the need for such a congregation.

Coincidentally, the question of the day at the Dallas Morning News Religion Blog is, “Do you think religions are a factor in the oppression of women?” You can read the responses here, beginning with The Episcopal Church’s very own Katie Sherrod of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Any parallels between this post and the prior post are serendipity.

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