Rome Celebrations

Mary Ward 400th Anniversary Celebrations  

IBVM and CJ gathering at Sant' Ignazio. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

3-9 October 2009

By Sr Carmel Gallagher, IBVM

Glorious sunshine and bright blue skies greeted the 1,000 pilgrims who travelled to Rome from all over the world to take part in the 400th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of Mary Ward’s Institute in 1609.

These celebrations, held between 4-9 October included an enthusiastic papal audience in St Peter’s Square for the pilgrims; a re-enactment of Mary Ward’s entry into the city of Rome in 1621 through the Flaminian Gate; several concerts and liturgies in the churches associated with Mary Ward and a symposium.

It all began for the Irish contingent with their departure at an unearthly hour from Dublin airport on Saturday 3 October. But by mid-day, most of the Irish group were settled in at Casa la Salle on Via Aurelia, which was ‘home’ for the week of celebrations.

Sunday 4th October:

Mass on Sunday morning at the English College (the links between the English College and Mary Ward stretch back to the Institute’s early days in Rome) was concelebrated by eleven priests and one deacon. Sr Pat Heron took responsibility for the liturgy. As the English College’s students had not yet returned for the academic year, the main chapel was not open. Srs Barbara Murphy, Mary O’Farrell and Pat Murray, who are all based in Rome, were present at the Mass.

The English College in Rome. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

In the afternoon, hundreds of IBVMs, CJs, Associates and friends from all over the world assembled in Caravita Church for the official registration. The logistics and organisation in ensuring that everyone received the specially designed back-packs containing scarves, lanyards, guides and mementos were first class, thanks to Sr Sandra Perrett, IBVM, and the organising committee. 

Registration in the Caravita Church. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

It was during these couple of hours that the internationality of the group assembling for the celebration became apparent. The buzz was palpable with the informal meeting of IBVM friends from different provinces and introductions to some of our CJ Sisters. Many welcomed an opportunity to rest awhile. A DVD of parts of the pilgrimage from Liege to Rome was shown in the background.

Monday 5 October:

Some chose to take a guided bus tour of the city in the morning. All were instructed to be behind the Irish Flag, carried by Sr Josephine Keegan, in the Piazza del Popolo for a short para-liturgy to welcome the pilgrims through the Porta Flaminia at 4pm. By mid afternoon, the yellow and blue scarves which were seen all around the city in the forenoon, were converging from North, South, East and West into the Piazza del Popolo. It was the first time in the week that the 1,000 followers of Mary Ward came together to celebrate … and did we celebrate! 

Re-enacting the entrance through the Flaminian Gate in 1621. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Porto del Popolo - the Flaminian Gate – was the point of entry for Mary Ward and her companion in 1621. To commemorate this event, a re-enactment of this episode was staged by members of the IBVMs and CJs who were dressed in costumes of the day. Amongst the group were members of this year’s pilgrimage who journeyed from Liège to Rome on foot.

Welcoming liturgy in Piazza del Populo. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

A moving para-liturgy in German and English was enhanced by a choir of Romanian CJ Sisters and a large choir of students from St Mary’s Shaftesbury in the UK. Sr Marian Moriarty, IBVM, Congregational Leader, carried the Jubilee candle in the procession. All those assembled stood behind their national flags. At the close of proceedings the choir from St Mary’s Shaftesbury proceeded to Santa Maria del Popolo gave a rendition of the Jubilee Prayer which had been specially composed by their Principal and Organist.

Romanian CJ Sisters sing the response. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

The Church of Sant’ Ignazio was the venue for the concert on Monday night. The music was specially commissioned in honour of Mary Ward and consisted of Italian and English music from the 16th and 17th centuries. It was interspersed with extracts, one of which was read by Sr Chris Goodman, from various Mary Ward papers. This was a moving experience in a Church which had been very familiar to Mary Ward and her companions. 

 Gathering at Sant'Ignazio. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Tuesday 6 October:

Sr Gemma Simmonds, CJ, was the keynote speaker at a symposium on Mary Ward at the Augustinianum in the Vatican, entitled, ‘Mary Ward – A Woman for Today’. 

The Symposium. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

 Sr Mary Wright, IBVM, and Sr Martha Zechmeister, CJ, responded.

Symposium liturgy. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

The latter spoke in German but we, English-speaking participants, got a simultaneous translation given, superbly, by Sr Julie Clinton, IBVM.  Sr Martha spoke as if she were Mary Ward speaking to us today - challenging, inspiring and stimulating us. The symposium was held over two sessions in order to give all a chance to attend.

The audience. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Each member of the Irish contingent received a personal invitation from the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr Noel Fahey and his wife to a reception in their residence on Tuesday night.  We were joined by other Irish religious and priests living in Rome. Following the Ambassador’s reception, there was a musical meditation on Mary Ward at the Caravita. 

Wednesday 7 October:

IBVM and CJ pilgrims outside St Peter's. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square from 8.30am for the Papal Audience which was due to begin at 10.30am. All of Mary Ward followers were assembled in the same corral and the internationality was striking. The very large numbers of Mary Ward Associates, young and old, men and women, from all over the world gave a sense of hope, joy and encouragement for the future. A large banner, carried by one group, read: “Mary Ward – Santa Presto”. 

The Pope and pilgrims. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

The young CJ Sisters from Romania expressed their joy and excitement in song in their area of the corral as they awaited the arrival of Pope Benedict. During his address, the Pope gave great mention to Mary Ward. After the audience, Sr Marian Moriarty, IBVM, and Sr Mechtilde Meckl, CJ, met Pope Benedict.

Sr Mechtilde Meckl, CJ, (l) and Sr Marian Moriarty, IBVM, (r). Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Later in the afternoon there were guided meditations in different languages in churches associated with Mary Ward around Rome. The English-speaking pilgrims met in San Lorenzo in Damaso and this prayerful meditation was directed by Sr Anna McAuliffe.

Thursday 8 October:

The morning was assigned for walking tours of the city given by several leaders familiar with Mary Ward’s Rome. The leaders took groups of about 15 pilgrims and traversed the cobble stones and visited the various churches and places associated with Mary Ward.

Mary Ward's house in Via Montoro. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

The international Mass in the Church of Sant’ Ignazio on Thursday afternoon was, for many, the highlight of the week. Mgr Hudson, Rector in the English College, was the main celebrant.

Mass for Mary Ward. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Sr Josephine Keegan carried the Irish flag in the entrance procession with Sr Anne Mary Murphy proud to hold the Rumbek flag aloft. The choir providing the music was from Alltötting in Germany and was conducted by Sr Avita, CJ.

Altotting choir. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

Friday 9 October:

Mass in English was celebrated in the Church of Sant’ Agnese after which there was an opportunity to walk through the catacombs. Then the pilgrims made their way to Casa Loreto where the community welcomed IBVMs and CJs with refreshments and this afforded everyone an opportunity to stop and rest awhile and chat. Then it was on to the CJ Generalate in Via Nomentana to another cordial welcome and more refreshments! 

IBVM Generalate. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

While the caterers prepared lunch for the 1,000, the guests were entertained by the choir from Shaftesbury and a group of twenty-five young CJ Sisters from Romania.

CJ Generalate. Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

The very large lawn at the back of the Generalate provided ample space for everyone to sit and was a great sense of sharing and joy as people mingled and tried (often unsuccessfully) to overcome language barriers. Nevertheless, there was an understanding and acceptance that we were all Mary Ward’s followers.

Saturday 10 October:

Many of the pilgrims made their way home to their respective countries. Aer Lingus brought a number to Dublin in the forenoon while those travelling with Ryanair didn’t touch down until nearly mid-night. Srs Teresa Mac Paul and Louise O’Sullivan were there to welcome us. A sincere word of gratitude is due to Berna who did so much in organising the pilgrimage for us. We are also grateful to the Province for allowing those who wished to make this pilgrimage to do so without being subjected to lottery. It was a memorable experience. Thank you!

Slan abhaile! Photo: Jablowsky Haseneder

More images from the Jubilee celebrations in Rome can be seen in the Image Gallery. Click here