Congregatio Jesu

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Monastery church of the Congregatio Jesu in Munich - Pasing (2012)

The Congregatio Jesu (CJ) is a women's order with the original purpose of educating girls , founded in 1609 by Maria Ward (English: Mary Ward).

Originally the official name of the institute was Institutum Beatae Mariae Virginis ( order abbreviation : IBMV), but the order was commonly referred to as the English Miss . The name Maria Ward Sisters is also used after the founder . In 2009 the institute had about 1930 members, together with the Loreto Sisters about 4000.


Mary Ward founded the order in 1609 during her stay in Flanders . She adopted the rule of the Jesuits . The attempt to have this confirmed in Rome initially failed and Mary Ward was expelled from Rome. Mary Ward advocated education for women and wanted neither a monastic life nor a religious habit for their communities, but apostolic service and public work. Their spirituality was deeply shaped by Ignatius von Loyola and his book of exercises . During her lifetime, she only managed to implement her plans in a few steps.

The institute founded numerous branches, especially in southern Germany, where many schools are still operated by the institute. For example, one institute is located in Neuhaus am Inn , another was in the former Capuchin monastery in Traunstein ( moved to Sparz as a girls ' secondary school since 1895 ) or in the former Sankt Zeno monastery in Bad Reichenhall . Even in England and Austria there were schools and communities of the English Misses already in the early days.

The order later split into three branches, two of which reunited under the name of Loreto Sisters .


On January 30, 2004, the Roman branch of the order was renamed the Congregatio Jesu (CJ). The name is deliberately similar to the Society of Jesus ( Jesuits ), since the order has been in the spiritual tradition of Ignatius of Loyola from the very beginning . However, Ignatius had 1547 under the pressure of church political circumstances and some confreres of Pope Paul III. obtained a decree that should prevent a female branch of the Jesuit order (see also encyclical Regimini militantis ecclesiae ).

With the adoption of the Ignatian Constitutions, which became legally possible in 2003, the Congregatio Jesu is de facto that women's community that can be described as the female branch of the Society of Jesus. In addition to the promise of the classic three evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience), the members also take a fourth vow, which includes obedience to the Pope and expresses the special availability for the concerns of the universal Catholic Church.

The legacy of being the first major school order means that the institute still owns and runs numerous schools, some of which are preserved and some of which are outsourced or handed over to other institutions. The mandate of women’s education and a specifically Christian, responsible and elitist education in today's world, however, still has its importance. New tasks from the context of universal church issues such as the option for the poor, the connection between faith and justice, intercultural, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and the communication of Ignatian spirituality are fields that are gradually being developed.

The Congregatio Jesu sees itself as part of the worldwide Ignatian network, in which orders like the Jesuits or the Missionaries of Christ and lay people like the Community of Christian Life (GCL) or the Ignatian Associates (IA) live the Ignatian spirituality and out of it on behalf of Universal Church are apostolic. The institute currently has associate members in England and tries to intensify cooperation with lay people in various fields.

Since January 2005 there is a new Central European Order Province in which numerous small provinces from Germany, Austria and Italy have been amalgamated. The provincial council is located in Munich-Pasing. Sabine Adam has been general assistant for the German-speaking Central European Province since 2014.

Mechtild Meckl was the general superior of the community "Congregatio Jesu" from 2002 to 2011 . Jane Livesey has been Superior General since 2011 .


The life of the members of the Congregatio Jesu is based on the retreat of Ignatius of Loyola. Participation in the mission of Jesus into the midst of the world and to people, the giving of life for those who need help, “service for souls”, as Ignatius calls it, and the glorification of God are the concerns of the community. It is about availability for the needs of the time and the concerns of the universal Church. The international institute therefore expects its members to be willing to go wherever specific tasks arise.

Training for the Congregatio Jesu

In accordance with the great challenge of unrestricted availability and the need to respond to the needs of the time and the region, the training is open and complex. The so-called "experiments" are at the center of the two-year novitiate. The most important of these are the 30-day retreat according to Ignatius. They are done individually in seclusion and consist of observing the Gospels of Jesus for four or five hours every day and, with a companion, reflecting on the inner movements and insights that arise. The goal of this exercise is to make a decision to follow Jesus unconditionally and to be “companions”. Other experiments take place in social, pastoral and other tasks and in different cultural areas and each last two months. The training lasts about ten years and beyond that for a lifetime in the sense of a continuous formation. The institute motivates its new members to complete a degree if possible or to do an analogue training and to undertake intensive theological studies, if possible at a college or university.


In accordance with the great concern of Mary Ward, the order ran numerous schools through the centuries, and later also colleges and universities. In the field of education, the Congregatio Jesu played a pioneering role in the education of girls and women. In the course of time, the cause of the education of women was also pursued by other religious communities, especially the school orders and congregations, so that the Congregatio Jesu also turned to other tasks.

The Order is committed to the essential apostolic tasks of the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. A special focus is on imparting Ignatian spirituality, specifically the Ignatian retreat. Basically, the tasks today are in all areas of pastoral and social services. The members of the institute work in various areas of responsibility in dioceses, in parishes, in categorical pastoral care, in science (especially in theology, the humanities and related subjects) and in many social areas such as migrant and refugee work, prostitution support and social work in the slums.



  • Alfred Juhl: Institutum Mariae Virginum Anglicanarum. A contribution to the history of the English Institute (BMV) in Augsburg from its beginnings to 1830. Wißner, Augsburg 1997, ISBN 3-89639-088-0 .
  • Johann Kronbichler (Ed.): Heritage and Order. The Institute of the English Misses in St. Pölten 1706–2006. Catalog book for the special exhibition of the Diocesan Museum St. Pölten. St. Pölten, 2006, ISBN 978-3-901863-25-7 .

See also literature from Maria Ward .

Web links

Commons : Congregatio Jesu  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Papal obedience ( Memento from February 22, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Option for the poor ( Memento from February 22, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  3. The provincial leadership ( Memento from February 22, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Mechtild Meckl honored with the Federal Cross of Merit Catholic Sunday newspaper for the diocese of Augsburg, 23./30. December 2012
  5. The General Management ( Memento from February 22, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Review by Alois Eder ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Literaturgesellschaft St. Pölten