BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A BRITISH NUN has been elected general superior of the Congregation of Jesus for the first time since the 18th century.
The worldwide congregation elected Sister Jane Livesy on Sunday, with more than 60 members gathering in the sanctuary of St Ignatius, in Loyola, Spain. Representatives of the congregation came from orders in Argentina, Zimbabwe, Mongolia and Cuba.
The Congregation of Jesus described the day of Sister Jane’s election as one of “gratitude and joy”. Sister Jane said: “These are exciting times for us. With challenging opportunities opening up in parts of the world where the need for evangelisation is urgent.
“With vocations beginning to pick up in Mary Ward’s own country as well, it feels good to be part of a religious life that is open to the call of today and tomorrow.” Prior to the election, delegates prayed in silence for half an hour in order to discern with Christ the best person “suitable today to carry this weight of responsibility for the future”.
Before becoming provincial supe rior in Britain, Sister Jane was headmistress of St Mary’s School in Shaftesbury, Dorset, between 1985 and 1998. The independent Catholic boarding school is founded on the principles of Mary Ward. On its website their mission staement declares: “We are concerned with all that a girl is and could become.” The society’s noviciate in England is based at the Bar Convent in York, where the sisters have been dedicated to the northern city for over 300 years.
The order was founded in 1609 by Yorkshire woman Mary Ward, who was declared Venerable by Pope Bene dict XVI in 2009, the first step on the road to sainthood. The last English women to be general superiors of the Congregation of Jesus were Anna Barbara Babthorpe (1697-1711) and her sister Mary Agnes (1711-1720). Both were related to Mary Ward’s cousin and early companion, Barbara Babthorpe of Osgodby, Yorkshire.
Mary Ward’s foundation exists today worldwide under two names – the Congregation of Jesus and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The societies have approximately 3,000 members, with Sisters in 44 countries and across five continents.