Loreto foundress unveiled to inspire generations

21 May 2008

By The Record

By Anthony Barich
The students of Loreto Nedlands received a striking reminder of the power that comes from faith in God last week when a statue of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary foundress Mary Ward was unveiled on Monday.
Before a life-size, 120kg bronze statue of her was unveiled by school principal Jennifer Healey and IVBM State Congregation Leader Sister Margaret O’Sullivan, the principal expressed the hope that it be a reminder that Mary Ward’s faith and trust in God enabled her to follow God’s call and make a difference in the world.
“May we seek to follow her example and act freely, justly, courageously, with integrity, sincerity and joy to make a difference here and now,” she said, adding that following God’s will is not restrictive but is lived in the freedom to love,” the principal said.
“Mary chose to live in freedom doing God’s will out of love, not because she felt she had to but because she wanted to. She chose to be a person of integrity in all circumstances, not just when it suited her, and she chose to work for justice, to bring about change for those whose voices are not heard.”
Mary Ward lived during the turbulent times of the Reformation, when “reformers” burned down churches and persecuted the visible witnesses of God’s love, priests and Religious.
In 1609 she founded the Religious Order, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, modeled on the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), which was founded by St Ignatius.
Born in 1585, she grew up in Yorkshire during the Reformation. In her early twenties, she travelled to France and for a time lived in a convent before establishing The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary and her followers opened schools for young girls throughout Europe and later in England.
The new order was controversial because of Mary’s commitment to working within the community rather than adhering to a cloistered Religious life and her activities had many detractors.
She was labelled a heretic and imprisoned by Pope Urban VIII, but reportedly always carried with her a small cross and Rosary beads.
The life size statue incorporates these important elements as well as her satchel, hat and shoes which served her on pilgrimages from St Omar in France to Rome.
By the time she died in 1645 her order had been suppressed and her houses and schools effectively disbanded in England and Europe.
However, The IBVM survived through the perseverance of her followers and flourished again during the 1800s.
The statue’s creator, Adelaide-based Meliesa Judge, describes the Mary Ward statue as a ‘moving creation’, both in the sense that the figure is striding out in big steps, and represents her actively living out her faith in God.
“Mary Ward is striding forward in the world. When I spoke to the schools they all brought to me a sense of action and spirituality,” said Meliesa, who created it with her husband Will Kuiper.
“I like it. I’ve worked on it for a long time. Often you get to a point where can see the flaws but I can’t see any in it.”
The schools have had input to the statue by selecting a quotation from Mary Ward’s writings which feature at the base.
Five Loreto principals from different States attended the unveiling.
Next year marks the 400th anniversary of the first Loreto school in Europe.