An online campaign is being launched in a bid to see a key woman from history recognised as a saint.

The Bar Convent, in Blossom Street, York - the oldest living convent in the UK -  is backing the campaign to see Yorkshire woman Mary Ward declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

Mary, who lived from 1585-1645, was a pioneer who paved the way for girls to be educated  in schools to the same standard as boys. While the country's first school for girls was opened in London, the second was in the Bar Convent.

Mary argued there was no difference between men and women "that women may not do great things", adding "and I hope in God it will be seen that women in time to come will do much".

Supporters of are now launching their campaign to raise awareness and provide evidence to the Catholic Church, in a bid to see Mary recognised as a saint.

The campaign will launch as part of Mary Ward week 2024 which takes place from January 23-30 to mark the anniversaries of her birth and death.

York Press: Dr Hannah Thomas, Special Collections Manager at the Bar Convent with Mary Ward’s 17th century crucifix made with ebonyDr Hannah Thomas, Special Collections Manager at the Bar Convent with Mary Ward’s 17th century crucifix made with ebony (Image: Charlotte Graham)

The global celebration is an annual event where Mary's followers from around the world pay tribute to her life and achievements, including those who work at the 200 schools worldwide that have been founded in her name.

The sister in charge at the Bar Convent, Sister Ann Stafford, said: "Here at the Bar Convent we have been contributing to the ongoing global campaign to have Mary Ward officially recognised by the Church as a Saint.

"As someone who campaigned for the dignity of women all of her life, we truly believe that Mary Ward is a vital role model for our time."

Mary founded the Congregation of Jesus, who reside at Bar Convent - she also set up The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto), also founded in York.

Sister Elizabeth Cotter, Canon Lawyer, Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Mary Ward, said: “As part of our case, we need to provide evidence that Mary Ward remains relevant today.

York Press: Dr Hannah Thomas with Mary Ward's 17th century paternoster beadDr Hannah Thomas with Mary Ward's 17th century paternoster bead (Image: Charlotte Graham)

"This recognition by the church would provide the women of our time with a fine example of the church's willingness to promote the dignity of women in a world which badly needs such witness.

"For the hundreds of thousands of Mary Ward followers worldwide, recognition by the church would validate the belief that Mary Ward is a saint for the modern world; she is needed as much by our 21st century world as she was in those dark days of opposition to women in the 17th century.

"Support for and belief in Mary Ward has never waned in more than 400 years and her beatification and canonisation by the church is long overdue."

To help the cause, supporters can sign the petition, use #MaryWardForSaint on social media, or visit the Bar Convent to discover more about Mary Ward.

Sister Stafford added: "Help us to raise awareness about this local woman who made international history or let the cause office know if you can help us in other ways by emailing"

The Bar Convent will be running special events throughout Mary Ward week week and until February 17 to highlight the cause.

Events include a talk on Tuesday, January 23 and the Annual Ecumenical Service on Sunday, January 28, where the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell will be giving the homily.

People can also visit the permanent exhibition to discover more about Mary Ward and her legacy. Please visit the website for more details and for the link to the petition: