2024 Loreto Pilgrimage In the Footsteps of Mary Ward

This April, key leaders within the Loreto network travelled in the footsteps of Mary Ward across Europe. It is a journey with a circle of friends who are dedicated to furthering the mission begun by Mary Ward – transforming the Church and the world particularly by empowering women to seek truth and do justice.

Throughout the two-week pilgrimage, our pilgrims visited a number of places, including York, London, Saint-Omer, Liège, Munich and Rome, that were significant in Mary Ward’s life and to the realisation of her goal to establish an apostolic, unenclosed order of religious women, based on the Ignation model.

Through visiting these sites where Mary Ward practiced such determination, faith and compassion, pilgrims are further inspired to embrace the power of faith as they face the trials in their own lives and vocations.

We invite you to follow our journey on Facebook and LinkedIn, where we have shared updates, reflections and photos from the pilgrimage.


Day 1: The Pilgrimage Begins

The ‘In the Footsteps of Mary Ward’ pilgrimage began on Monday evening with a welcome from Sr Ann Stafford CJ in the Atrium at the Bar Convent in York. This was followed by a welcome dinner and pilgrimage commissioning, led by Sr Sandra Perrett ibvm, where our pilgrims each received a badge and scallop medallions, in keeping with the tradition to discreetly leave a medallion at places of special significance along their journey.

During the two-week pilgrimage, our pilgrims will visit York, London, Saint-Omer, Liège, Munich and Rome – which were significant in Mary Ward’s life and to the realisation of her goal to establish an apostolic, unenclosed order of religious women, based on the Ignation model.


Day 2: Mary Ward’s York

Part 1 – The Bar Convent Tour

Today the pilgrims immersed themselves in the history of Mary Ward’s ‘hometown’ of York. This gave context to the time and place in which she was raised and how this impacted her education, deep faith and commitment to empowering women.

Half the group spent the morning touring Bar Convent itself. Established in 1686 by Frances Bedingfield, it is of special significance to the Loreto Branch of the Institute as Teresa Ball trained there before returning to Ireland in the early 1800s. This led to the establishment of Loreto in Ireland and ultimately Australia through Gonzaga Barry.

Sr Patricia Harriss CJ led the first group tour, starting in the Atrium and moving into the Georgian parlour. A trip outside to the garden in springtime bloom and then upstairs to the beautiful and historic chapel. After a tea break, the group explored the outstanding Exhibition, “Step into a world of secrecy and spies as you explore the impact of the Tudor monarchs on Catholicism, York and the founding sisters of our house.”

The final stop was the library, where Special Collections Manager Dr Hannah Thomas had set out a selection of items and precious letters including from Theresa Ball and Gonzaga Barry. It was an incredible history lesson that allowed our pilgrims to deepen their understanding of the Mary Ward story.


Day 2: Mary Ward’s York

Part 2 – Tour of York

Walking distance from the Bar Convent is The Shambles, an old street in the centre of the city where the Shrine of St Margaret Clitherow is located. This provides a wonderful insight into the political and religious climate in which Mary Ward was born and raised.

The afternoon tour group braved the elements and was rewarded by finding the Priory Church of the Holy Trinity open to the public. It is the only pre-Reformation monastic building still in use today in York. The rain did not dampen the pilgrims’ enthusiasm to learn about the incredible life and sacrifice of Margaret Clitherow. A trip to the magnificent York Minster rounded off the day.


Day 3: Mary Ward Family Homes

On day three of the ‘In the Footsteps of Mary Ward’ pilgrimage, pilgrims deeply engaged with Mary Ward’s personal history and community by visiting the places she knew intimately as a child.

As part of the tour, the pilgrims visited Ripley Castle where Mary Ward spent many days during her childhood. Through visiting this castle, the pilgrims gained a strong sense of the privilege of the Ward family and an understanding of how she was inspired to reach out to those less fortunate.

The Ingilby family has resided at Ripley Castle for 26 generations. The pilgrims were warmly greeted by Sir Thomas Ingilby’s daughter-in-law, Sara Ingilby, a St Mary’s Shaftesbury (CJ school now closed) old girl. She shared how delighted she was to discover the Mary Ward connection to the castle when she joined the family.


Day 4: Reflective Spaces

Day four of the pilgrimage invited deep reflection on Mary Ward’s life. Pilgrims climbed Mount Grace by foot, where members of the Institute came in 1642 to pray for Mary Ward when she was gravely ill. A very muddy track led to the beautiful Lady Chapel, silent time and graciously hosted morning tea.

It was then on to the Anglican parish church of St. Thomas’ Osbaldwick which contains the tombstone of Mary Ward. This site provided the pilgrims with an opportunity to reflect on the esteem with which Mary Ward was held beyond the Catholic community, even in the time of sectarian persecution.

Felicity was in abundance at St Thomas’ as the local choir stridently rehearsed and a Mary Ward enthusiast visiting the church for the first time was shocked to see 23 pilgrims from Australia gathered around Mary Ward’s tombstone. A memorable visit!


Day 5: Travel to London

On day five of the pilgrimage, pilgrims said a fond farewell to Sisters Anne, Francis and Patricia and all the wonderful staff and friends of Bar Convent. Their hospitality and friendship was a tremendous gift to all the pilgrims.

They left behind the grey, but not raining, York and travelled by train across the English countryside, through the centre of England, and into London. This journey allowed pilgrims to reflect on the spaces through which Mary Ward and her companions would have travelled on foot and by carriage.

The movement from the quiet, small, walled city of York to the hustle and bustle of an unseasonably sunny London, provided a platform for reflection on the magnitude of the challenges Mary Ward faced at various times during her lifetime.


Day 6: Mary Ward’s London

The beautiful weather continued as Sr Josette led the pilgrims on a tour of significant London sites, including St Clement Danes, where Mary Ward experienced the Glory Vision in 1609. Sadly, the church was closed in preparation for an RAF ceremony.

“One morning, making my meditation coldly, and not at all to my satisfaction… something very supernatural befell me… I was abstracted from out of my whole being, and it was shown to me with clearness and inexpressible certainty that I was not to be of the Order of St Teresa, but that some other thing was determined for me, without all comparison more to the glory of God…”

Remembrance of this key spiritual experience for Mary Ward encouraged our pilgrims to open their hearts to the voice of God.

After a busy day, miraculous timing landed the pilgrims at Southwark Cathedral, just in time to hear the angelic voices of the choir at Evensong. The exquisite service was made even more remarkable by the appearance of Hodge, the Cathedral cat, casually walking across the aisle after the Magnificat!


Day 7: Travel to Saint-Omer, France

As the pilgrims travelled from London to Saint-Omer, the focus of reflection was on Mary Ward’s experience of the same journey.

In certainly more comfortable circumstances, the pilgrims travelled by bus to Dover -including a last lap around the sites of London, then crossed the English Channel on a brand-new battery hybrid ferry to Calais, France. After a smooth sailing on a waveless sea, they boarded another bus for the final leg to Saint-Omer.

There was plenty of time to journal and consider what was being left behind and what was being sought by crossing.


Day 8: Saint-Omer ‘Firsts’

After spending the morning at the magnificent Saint-Omer Cathedral, the pilgrims braved the elements and spent the day on foot exploring the sites that were pivotal during the early foundations of the Institute. This included visiting the house in Rue Carnot, the nearby College of English Jesuits and the ruins of St Bertin’s Abbey.

It was here, in Saint-Omer, that Mary Ward received her second great insight to ‘Take the same of the society’, the same spirituality and mission of the Society of Jesus, which was founded by St Ignatius of Loyola.

This led to Mary Ward dedicating her life to ensuring that women were empowered to fulfill whatever part God called them to play – in realising gifts; in Jesus’ mission; in living life to the full.

Torrential rain and wind did not deter the pilgrims from following in the footsteps of Mary Ward today!


Day 9: Liège, Belgium

On day nine of the ‘In the Footsteps of Mary Ward’ pilgrimage, the pilgrims travelled from Saint-Omer to Liège. Their coach passed through the countryside of France and Belgium, through which Mary Ward and her companions also travelled. On a deeper level, this journey carries memories of both early expansion and later suppression.

This time in Liège provided pilgrims with an opportunity to reflect on the depth of Mary Ward’s prayer through her retreat notes, many of which were written while living there.

Liège is of great significance to Mary Ward’s story. The pilgrims’ first stop was St Martin’s Basilica – important for the Liège foundation, as Mary Ward spent time there reflecting on the spirituality of the Institute.

They then headed across the street to the house on Rue des Begards, where the second foundation of the Institute was located. Content to examine the house from the laneway, a magic moment occurred when the large gates opened and as the pilgrims made way for the emerging car, the driver invited them in to explore the gardens. There was great excitement at this special opportunity to see the whole house and many photos were taken.

From Rue des Begards it was down a hill, across a bridge, and up a hill, to the house on Rue Pierreuse. While this house had to be viewed from the street, the scope of the huge house and property down to the novitiate was clear.

The relentless April showers continued to dampen everything except the pilgrim’s spirits!


Day 10: Travel Day – Liège, Belgium to Munich, Germany

The pilgrims spent the day travelling through the countryside of Belgium and Germany by coach to reach Munich, the next destination of the pilgrimage. The journey allowed pilgrims to reflect on Mary Ward’s legacy and the modernity and ongoing relevance of her story.

Munich is of significance to Mary Ward’s story, as it is where Mary Ward was imprisoned for six weeks in 1631. Pilgrims will explore many sites of historical significance to Mary Ward’s story as they continue to tour Munich.

It was an epic journey to Munich with much camaraderie and sharing of lollies and even the first inaugural pilgrimage trivia game. Thank you to Louis, Nicki and Rachel for writing the questions. The speed at which they were answered showed how much the pilgrims had learned about Mary Ward on this journey so far. Here are some of the questions, write your answers in the comments!

Footsteps of Mary Ward Pilgrimage Bus Trip Trivia

1) Name the castle where Mary Ward visited and stayed as a child.

2) What family did Mary Ward stay with between 1599 and 1605?

3) Name the village and church where Mary Ward is believed to be buried.

4) Where did Bar Convent get its name?

5) Where is the shrine to Margaret Clitheroe located?

6) The pilgrims visited Baldwin Gardens in London, where Mary stayed with her father. What was his name? What was her mother’s name?

7) Name the bishop who supported Mary Ward in Saint-Omer

8) What colour was the English Jesuits’ door that Mary Ward knocked on in Saint-Omer?


Day 11: Munich

On day eleven, the morning snow turned to rain as pilgrims set out to tour key sites from Mary Ward’s story on foot. Sr Monika Glockann CJ skillfully guided them through Munich, including visits to Munich Cathedral, St Michael’s Jesuit church and Saint James’s Church (Sankt Jakob am Anger).

Anger Convent is of great significance to Mary Ward’s story, as it is where she was imprisoned for six weeks for her apparent disobedience after being condemned by Pope Urban VIII in 1631.

A highlight of the trip was the opportunity to visit the main archives of the Congregatio Jesu in Nymphenburg where the Painted Life series of paintings is carefully stored. Well known to all the pilgrims, it was an incredible experience for them to see the original paintings that illustrate Mary Ward’s life and spiritual journey.

Day 12: Crossing the Alps

Today the pilgrims farewelled Munich and travelled to Rome, the last destination of the pilgrimage. Time in this city will bring to mind the many challenges Mary Ward faced on her journey to transform the Church and the world by empowering women to seek truth and do justice.

For the pilgrims, this leg of the journey took 8 hours – from leaving the hotel by coach to Munich Airport, flying to Rome and travelling by coach to their accommodation. It was a long day, but the camaraderie among the pilgrims and the excellent organisation by the pilgrimage leadership team meant it all went smoothly. Add on the 12-hour coach journey from Liege to Munich on Wednesday and it will have taken the pilgrims two days to make a journey that took Mary Ward and her companions 10 weeks on foot, in ill-fitting shoes and poor health, and she did it three times.

Immersion in the city where Mary Ward practised such determination, faith and compassion may further inspire our pilgrims to embrace the power of faith as they face the trials in their own lives and vocations.

Day 13: Mary Ward’s Rome

On day 13, the penultimate day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims visited sacred sites and the parishes where Mary Ward and her companions once lived. This included Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Prassede, and San Pietro in Vincoli where Mary Ward received the grace of knowing where the strength of the Institute was to be found and maintained.

The final destination of the day was Il Gesu and then next door to the Rooms of St Ignatius, where pilgrims appreciated how the spiritual graces received by St Ignatius of Loyola became the founding values of the Institute in finding expression of its spirituality.

In the evening, the pilgrims were joined by members of the IBVM and CJ leadership teams for dinner in the Jewish Quarter. It was a joyous and memorable occasion.

Day 14: Mary Ward’s Rome

On the final day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims travelled to Mary Ward’s first house and school in Rome, Via Monserrato 38/40. Pilgrims also visited the Venerable English College, which allowed them to appreciate the connection of this place with the story of Mary Ward’s first stay in Rome.

The pilgrims were warmly welcomed at the Venerable English College and generously included in the Mass in the exquisite Chapel.

The walking tour of Mary Ward’s Rome concluded with a visit to the Flaminia Gates at Piazza del Popolo, recalling Mary Ward and her companions’ journey to and arrival in Rome in 1621.

A final liturgy was held at the chapel at their accommodation, Guest House Santa Lucia Filippini, followed by a celebratory dinner. This extraordinary journey has come to an end, but it is also just beginning.