Return to England
With papal permission she left Rome in 1638 to travel slowly back to London, where she remained until 1642, establishing a school and working with the ‘underground church’, until difficulties that would eventually lead to the Civil War made it necessary for the little community to travel north to Yorkshire for safety.
Mary died in Hewarth, Yorkshire in January, 1645. Her few companions remained in England until 1650, when they moved with their pupils to Paris. Some of these eventually returned to Munich, while others were invited back into England a few years later.
York, England: the Bar Convent
In 1669, one of the group in Paris, Frances Bedingfield, returned to Yorkshire with a few companions to establish a school. For a time they moved to London, but in 1686, after several other small foundations, moved to a property just outside the walls of the City of York. This new foundation, called the “Bar Convent”, so-named from proximity to Micklegate Bar in the York City walls, was to have tremendous significance for the future of Mary Ward’s community.
Because of the Bull of Suppression of 1631, the community founded by Mary Ward was in a delicate position, with no seal of approval, no formal recognition of its status as a religious congregation and no official title. Gradually it came to be known on the European continent as the English Ladies (Englischen Fraulein) or the Institute of Mary, with a later clarification that the title referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Mary Ward herself.
The Rule was confirmed in 1703 by Pope Clement XI, while the right to self-governance under a General Superior was recognized in 1749 in a decree by Benedict XIV. It was stipulated, however, that this was not the same community of “Jesuitesses” which had been suppressed in 1631, and that Mary Ward could not be called the founder of this religious congregation. Only in 1877, in response to a request from the community in York, was the Institute finally and fully approved, and after major efforts on the part of the IBVM communities and friends, Mary Ward was finally recognised as the founder in 1909.