Mary Ward: Dangerous Visionary is a one-hour documentary telling the story of that “incomparable woman” – Mary Ward (1585-1645) – through the lens of the 21st century.

Mary Ward was a divinely inspired advocate of a radical new way of religious life for women, based on the apostolic model first set out by St Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century.

She offered an audacious vision of what women could and would do in religious life and pioneered a system of education which prepared them for a role in the service of the Church and society which was not confined to the cloister or marriage.

Hers is the story of a woman who remained, despite all her trials and the shabby treatment meted out to her, a loyal servant of the Church.

She may one day finally be recognised as the saint her followers and friends knew her to be.

For me, the story of Mary Ward is a story of struggle, it is a story of courage, it is a story of love and it is a story of perseverance. It is a story that centres on an ordinary woman who really did extraordinary things.” – Dr Elaine McDonald

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The documentary Mary Ward: Dangerous Visionary was directed by Ciaran O’Connor of TV production company New Decade and produced by Sarah Mac Donald.

It tells the story of this religious pioneer through re-enactments of seminal moments in her life and historical commentary. It focuses on two projects where Mary Ward’s Sisters are working today over 400 years after she founded her first Institute in 1609, the same year that Ignatius of Loyola was beatified.

Like the Jesuits, availability was an attribute which Mary Ward saw as essential for her members and so she wished them to be free of a vow of stability.

While education has traditionally been central to her Sisters’ work, she herself wanted her members to respond to the needs of their times. Their ministry, she wrote, would be “care of the faith and other works congruous to the times”.

The documentary incorporates visually arresting images from locations in South Sudan and Canada and challenges viewers on issues such as educational discrimination and the marginalisation of the mentally ill and homeless.

Footage from the Bar Convent in York, the English city which was so central to Mary Ward’s life, is juxtaposed with aspects of her story in the 21st century work done by members of her Institutes.

I hope in God it will be seen that women in time to come will do much.” (1617)

Mary Ward – Dangerous Visionary