Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ

Picture of Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ

Director, Religious Life Institute

The Religious Life Institute is now based at the Institute of Theology, Cambridge

For further information contact Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ at gmcas2@cam.ac.uk


Gemma Simmonds is a sister of the Congregation of Jesus. After a career in teaching she worked as chaplain in the University of Cambridge and at Heythrop, where she also co-ordinated student support services. Since her return from study and work among women and street children in Brazil in 1992 she has been a volunteer on the chaplaincy team in Holloway Prison. She has worked in spiritual direction as a teacher and retreat-giver after training in the Jesuit Centre for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, USA, and has been involved in religious and priestly formation internationally since 1993. Her work as a conference facilitator and simultaneous translator has also led her into translating theological works in French, Spanish and Portuguese. She re-joined the staff at Heythrop in 2005 and is a Senior Lecturer in Pastoral and Social Studies and Theology. She is Director of the Religious Life Institute, Co-ordinator of the Erasmus Exchange Programme and President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.


Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, A Contemporary Re-reading of the Jansenist Crisis in Conversation with Henri de Lubac and the Ressourcement Movement, Thesis Supervisors: Prof. Peter Bayley, Prof. David Ford, 2006

M.Th., Heythrop College, University of London, 1993-5

P.G.C.E. (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), University of London Institute of Education, 1980-1981

M.A., University of Cambridge, Newnham, Modern & Medieval Languages (French and Spanish), 1977-80, (M.A. 1983)

Teaching at Heythrop


  • Ecclesiology
  • Ecumenism
  • Abrahamic


  • Spirituality and Society
  • Foundations of Christian Spirituality
  • Spiritual Direction in the Tradition of Ignatius Loyola
  • Theology of Religious Life

Research Interests

Historical Theology Pastoral Theology Religious Life Spirituality

Additional Areas of Interest

Women in the Church; Jansenism; Catholic Education.

Recent Publications

'A Clear and Perfect Estate': Mary Ward's Vision of the Just Soul (2017) Bloomsbury T&T Clark. London,

Liz Hoare, Using the Bible in Spiritual Direction (London: SPCK, 2015) (2016) Theology, Sage. (119) pp.233-234

‘Spiritual But Nor Religious’ – Some Final Reflections (2016) New Blackfriars, Wiley-Blackwell. (97) pp.218-230

Catholic Theological Association 2015 Conference Papers: Introduction (2016) New Blackfriars, Wiley-Blackwell. (97) pp.139-141

The Lord as Their Portion: the Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World, Elizabeth Rapley (2012) Theology

Other information

Media Experience

Woman’s Hour, Radio Five Live, Radio Berkshire, Radio 2, BBC 1, Newsnight, Esther, ITV2, Radio Cambridge, The Sunday Programme, Beyond Belief, Good Morning Sunday, Prayer for the Day, Sunday Worship, Pause for Thought, Prayer for the Day, BBC R4 Lent Talk, April 2012


Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Colloquium on Church and Family Life, Home is a Holy Place, London, 2007

Sisters Survivors of Communism project, Catholic University of Ukraine, 2006 and for film of Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters under European Communism

Who were the Nuns? A Prosopographical Study of the English Convents in Exile in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Queen Mary, University of London.

Advisory Board

Centre for Catholic Studies, University of Durham, 2012-

Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, 2002-

Jesuit Media Initiatives, 2008-

Teaching on Ministerial Training Programmes:

Salvation Army; Cambridge Theological Federation; Lincoln Diocesan Programme; International Jesuit Training Programme

Research Networks:

Founder member of the Ecclesiological Investigations Research Network, editorial board and committee.

Recent Papers/Seminars/Presentations and Talks

Conference of Religious of Scotland, ‘Religious Life and Vatican II: 50 Years On’, 2013

National Conference of Major Religious Superiors, Harare, Zimbabwe, ‘Religious Life and Vatican II: 50 Years On’, 2013

‘Where We Dwell in Common: Pathways for Dialogue in the 21st Century’, Ecclesiological Investigations Research Network International Conference, Assisi, 2012

‘The Rehabilitation of Mary Ward’ (The History of Women Religious in Britain and Ireland Annual Conference, University College Dublin)

International Symposium on Mary Ward, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo, Brazil, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2012