Institute of Mary, the official title of the second congregation founded by Mary Ward (q.v.). Under this title Barbara Babthorpe, the fourth successor of Mary Ward as “chief superior”, petitioned for and obtained the approbation of its rule in 1703. It is the title appended to the signatures of the first chief superiors, and mentioned in the “formula of vows” of the first members. “Englische Fraulein”, “Dame Inglese”, “Loretto Nuns“, are popular names for the members of the institute in the various countries where they have established themselves. On the suppression, in 1630, of Mary Ward‘s first congregation, styled by its opponents the “Jesuitesses”, the greater number of the members returned to the world or entered other religious orders. A certain number, however, who desired still to live in religion under the guidance of Mary Ward, were sheltered with the permission of Pope Urban VIII in the Paradeiser Haus, Munich, by the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian I. Thence some of the younger members were transferred at the pope’s desire to Rome, there to live with Mary Ward and be trained by her in the religious life. Her work, therefore, was not destroyed, but reconstituted with certain modifications of detail, such as subjection to the jurisdiction of the ordinary instead of to the Holy See immediately, as in the original scheme. It was fostered by Urban and his successors, who as late as the end of the seventeenth century granted a monthly subsidy to the Roman house. Mary Ward died in England at Heworth near York in 1645, and was succeeded as chief superior by Barbara Babthorpe, who resided at Rome as head of the “English Ladies”, and on her death was buried there in the church of the English College. She was succeeded as head of the institute by Mary Pointz, the first companion of Mary Ward. The community at Heworth removed to Paris in 1650. In 1669 Frances Bedingfield, one of the constant companions of Mary Ward, was sent by Mary Pointz to found a house in England. Favored by Catherine of Braganza, she established her community first in St. Martin‘s Lane, London, and afterwards at Hammersmith. Thence a colony moved to Heworth, and finally in 1686 to the site of the present convent, Micklegate Bar, York. In addition to that at Munich, two foundations had meantime been made in Bavaria—at Augsburg in 1662, at Burghausen in 1683.
At the opening of the eighteenth century the six houses of Munich, Augsburg, Rome, Burghausen, Hammersmith, and York were governed by local superiors appointed by the chief superior, who resided for the most part at Rome, and had a vicaress in Munich. Thus, for seventy years the institute carried on its work, not tolerated only, but protected by the various ordinaries, yet without official recognition till the year 1703, when at the petition of the Elector Maximilian Emanuel of Bavaria, Mary of Modena, the exiled Queen of England, and others, its rule was approved by Pope Clement XI. It was not in accordance with the discipline of the Church at that time to approve any institute of simple vows. The pope was willing, however, to approve the institute as such, if the members would accept enclosure. But fidelity to their traditions, and experience of the benefit arising from non-enclosure in their special vocation, induced them to forego this further confirmation. The houses in Paris and in Rome were given up about the date of the confirmation of the rule in 1703. St. Polten (1706) was the first foundation from Munich after the Bull of Clement XI. In 1742 the houses in Austria and its dependencies were by a Bull of Benedict XIV made a separate province of the institute, and placed under a separate superior-general. The Austrian branch at present (1909) consists of fourteen houses. In Italy, Lodi and Vicenza have each two dependent filials. When the armies of the first Napoleon overran Bavaria in 1809, the mother-house in Munich and the other houses of the institute in Germany—Augsburg, Burghausen, and Altotting excepted—were broken up and the communities scattered. On the restoration of peace to Europe, King Louis I of Bavaria obtained nuns from Augsburg, and established them at Nymphenburg, where a portion of the royal palace was made over to them. In 1840 Madame Catherine de Graccho, the superior of this house, was appointed by Gregory XVI general superior of the whole Bavarian institute. At the present day there are 85 houses under Bavaria, with 1153 members, 90 postulants, 1225 boarders, 11,447 day pupils, and 1472 orphans. Four houses in India, one at Rome, and two in England are subject to Nymphenburg. The house in Mainz escaped secularization, being spared by Napoleon on the condition that all connection with Bavaria should cease. It is now the mother-house of a branch which has eight filial houses.
When vigor was reviving in the institute abroad, the Irish branch was founded (1821) at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, by Frances Ball, an Irish lady, who had made her novitiate at York. There are now 19 houses of the institute in Ireland, 13 subject to Rathfarnham and 6 under their respective bishops. The dependencies of Rathfarnham are in all parts of the world—3 houses in Spain, 2 in Mauritius, 2 at Gibraltar, 10 in India, 2 in Africa, 10 in Australia, with a Central Training College for teachers at Melbourne (1906). There are 8 houses of the institute in Canada, 3 in the United States, 7 in England, about 180 houses in all. Owing to the variety of names and the independence of branches and houses, the essential unity of the institute is not readily recognized. The “English Virgins”, or “English Ladies”, is the title under which the members are known in Germany and Italy, whilst in Ireland, and where foundations from Ireland have been made, the name best known is “Loretto Nuns“, from the name of the famous Italian shrine given to the mother-house at Rathfarnham. Each branch has its own novitiate, and several have their special constitutions approved by the Holy See. The “Institute of Mary” is the official title of all; all follow the rule approved for them by Clement XI, and share in the approbation of their institute given by Pius IX, in 1877.
The sisters devote themselves principally to the education of girls in boarding-schools and academies, but they are also active in primary and secondary schools, in the training of teachers, instruction in the trades and domestic economy, and the care of orphans. Several members of the institute have also become known as writers.