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Sisters offers discernment weekend for women in York

Sisters of the Congregation of Jesus, which has strong links with East Anglia, will be leading a weekend of discernment for women who feel they may be called to religious life in York from January 13-15.

The weekend is not a recruitment drive, but a chance to meet others in the same situation, to pray together, and to learn more about religious life, the chance to gather more information or have someone to talk to.

There will be input on how to discern life decisions from some of the sisters and a chance to talk one-to-one with them, as well as to socialise with each other and with newer members of the CJ who are in training.  It will be held at the Bar Convent, York.

You may not recognise the name ‘Congregation of Jesus’, but perhaps you are familiar with the IBVM (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary)?  The name change came in 2002, but the congregation is the same.  The sisters have been in East Anglia for over 100 years.  They first expanded from their base in the Bar Convent, York into East Anglia in 1898 when they intended to open a hostel for university students, but ended up starting St Mary’s School in Cambridge.  It still flourishes now, although under lay management.

In 1921 a group of IBVM sisters moved to Sheringham to take over the running of a Catholic elementary school.  This lasted until 1934, but meanwhile in 1922 they opened an independent boarding and day school as well.  This was closed in 1940 as it was too close to the coast for safety.  However, in 1966 the sisters in Cambridge bought a house in Sheringham to spend holidays in, and it was much loved and much used for holidays until it was turned into a retreat house in 1991.  It was finally sold in 1999.

Involvement in Norwich began in 1985 at the invitation of Fr Tony Rogers.  The community of 3 or 4 sisters ran prayer groups, visited in the prison, helped with parish catechesis and with the choir, as well as offering spiritual direction, visiting the sick and housebound, and teaching remand prisoners to cook!  The house in Constitution Hill was sold in 2010 but one sister remains in Norwich, working in the parish and with prisoners, but living alone.

The CJ is an apostolic congregation of women founded in 1609 by Yorkshire woman Mary Ward, at a time when being a Catholic was outlawed.  Not to be diverted from God’s call, Mary Ward went to Europe to establish a group based on the Jesuit model and then brought some of them back to work in the Catholic underground in Britain.  The idea of sisters working outside a convent was novel and scandalous, and for 300 years the congregation existed without an official name or founder, but in 1870 it was granted recognition as the IBVM.  It was not until 2002 that the sisters were finally allowed to use the full Jesuit constitutions and take the name Congregation of Jesus, as Venerable Mary Ward had always wanted.

If you are interested in attending the discernment weekend, please get in touch at for more information.  You can also find them on and on