Religious women today facing the disapproval and scrutiny of officials in Rome might take some consolation from the life of the Venerable Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known in the United States as the Loreto sisters. In the 17th century, when she wanted to form an unenclosed order of women, she was too far ahead of her time. Rome not only balked at the idea, but at one point accused her of heresy.
Recognition of her efforts came slowly. On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict declared her venerable, an early step on the way to sainthood.