First Foundation: St-Omer

Mary Ward is shown bidding farewell to her father, Marmaduke Ward and boarding a vessel for St. Omer in France. Accompanying her are the first comanions of the Institute, Johanna Brown, Mary Poyntz, Susannah Rookwood and Winnifred Wigmore. These are women who were attracted by Mary’s edifying life during her stay in London in 1609 and wished to enter the religious life under her direction.
- Detail from the Painted Life No. 22
Mary already had a few companions who were engaged with her in various ministries in London, and the little group travelled across the English Channel to St-Omer, in Flanders, to begin to live religious life together and to start a school. It became even clearer to Mary in 1611 what this form of life would be: it was to be modelled on the way of life and the spirituality of the Society of Jesus. In 1621, after much thought and several “Plans” for their way of life, Mary prepared for the authorities in Rome a final document, adapted from a Jesuit source. This ‘Third Plan’ (Institutum I) sketches out a women’s community very closely resembling that of the Society of Jesus, while Mary’s contribution to Ignatian spirituality always reflected her own uniquely feminine experience of God, her Parent of parents and Friend of all friends.