In 1543, while in Rome, Ignatius established the House of St. Martha, a ministry dedicated to women living on the margins, mainly those trapped in prostitution. At the same time, he established the “Company of Grace,” a confraternity of lay people who became involved in the ministry, and were its earliest supporters.
In October of 2004, in an address to Creighton University on Jesuit-Lay collaboration, then Superior General Fr. Kolvenbach, S.J., when speaking about Jesuit-Lay collaboration in ministry, referenced the “Company of Grace” as one of the earliest examples of Jesuit-Lay collaboration:
When he established his first ministry in Rome, the House of St. Martha, he also established the “Company of Grace” a confraternity of lay people who became involved in this ministry with prostitutes and were its earliest supporters. In the days of Ignatius, confraternities were a popular means of involving lay men and women in church ministries, and he enthusiastically embraced them as partners in the works of the Society. He established other confraternities as he began other ministries, establishing a historical pattern for the way Jesuits precede in ministry.
Today, in 29 cities throughout the country, over 850 hundred lay women and men volunteer in the ministry of ISP and well over 1,000 women and men financially support this important ministry. With nearly 2,000 women and men involved in ISP, another “Company of Grace” has taken root. We began the Company of Grace awards in 2012 and have since honored 14+ women, men, and organizations.
Members of the Company of Grace
2012: Fr. Bill Creed, SJ
2013: Mr. Ed Shurna
2014: Amanda Asque, Sr. Patricia Crowley, OSB
2015: Sr. Marian Cowan, CSJ (St. Louis), Sr. Marion Renkens, CSJ (St. Louis); Wayne Richard, Rochelle Sims; The Labre Project at St. Ignatius High School, John Carroll University, and Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland)
2016: John Foppe (St. Louis), Sr. Connie Probst, OSF (St. Louis), Members of St. Patrick Church (Providence, RI), Fr. Greg Boyle SJ, Neli Vazquez Rowland
2017: Gary Meier (St. Louis), Kimberly Ritter (St. Louis); James Johnson (Cleveland), Linda Catanzaro (Cleveland); (Providence, RI); Rev. Michael Pfelger, Lisa Nigro
If you have an idea of someone who should be honored, or are interested in finding out more about hosting a Company of Grace event in your city, email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org