Suppression of Mary Ward’s Institute

IBVM founder Mary Ward is shown here in pilgrim dress as she prepares to undertake an ardous and difficult journey. She set out from Liege France with a small company of friends, crossing the Alps and walking on to Rome.  There she hoped to plead her case with the Holy Father in Rome.IBVM founder Mary Ward is shown here in pilgrim dress as she prepares to undertake an ardous and difficult journey. She set out from Liege France with a small company of friends, crossing the Alps and walking on to Rome. There she hoped to plead her case with the Holy Father in Rome.Just as the way forward seemed clear, the death of Pope Pius V, for whom the document the ‘Third Plan’ was intended, brought a temporary halt to her careful preparation to seek papal approval; meanwhile, Mary’s enemies began to gather forces for the destruction of Mary’s work. These were churchmen who disapproved of women living an active apostolic religious life, free from the monastic restrictions of the past, as well as various people, clergy and lay, who were opposed to the Jesuits and their influence.

From 1629 onwards, Mary’s communities in Prague, Vienna, Cologne, Trier, northern Italy and eventually Liege were all closed, and the sisters were urged to return to their families or to join other approved religious communities. Only the sisters in Munich survived because of the protection of the Elector Maximilian, although they lived in extreme poverty for a number of years. Mary Ward’s personal effects as shown are preserved in the Archives of the Congregatio Jesu, the Roman Branch of the Institute.Mary Ward’s personal effects as shown are preserved in the Archives of the Congregatio Jesu, the Roman Branch of the Institute.For several months in the winter of 1631 Mary was imprisoned in a Poor Clare convent in Munich by order of the Inquisition. When she was released, she and several companions went to Rome, where she proclaimed that she was neither disobedient nor a heretic. Although, without approval as a religious congregation, the little group was allowed to open a school in Rome.