He was over forty when he went to Douay College to study for the priesthood; no details have been preserved of his earlier life. He arrived there on 18 September, 1604; received the minor orders on 16 December, 1605; the subdiaconate on 26 October, 1607; the diaconate on 31 May, 1608; and the priesthood on the following day.
On 14 October he started for England, but was driven onto the shores of Scotland, arrested, and imprisoned for three years. On obtaining his liberty he came to England where he worked for thirty years, twenty of which he spent in various prisons. He was zealous and fiery by temperament, severe with himself and others, and especially devoted to hearing confessions. Though he had the reputation of being a very exacting director, his earnestness drew to him many penitents.
He was in London when Parliament issued the proclamation of 7 April, 1641, banishing all priests under pain of death, but refused to retire, and on 15 July was arrested in the house of his nephew. Six days later he was brought to trial at the Old Bailey and was condemned on 23 July. He was executed on the feast of St. Anne, to whom he ever had a great devotion.
An oil portrait, painted shortly after the martyrdom from memory or possibly from an earlier sketch, is preserved at St. Edmund's College, Old Hall.
- Third Douay Diary in Catholic Record Society, X (London, 1911);
- Richard Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests (London, 1741-2), using a contemporary account written by one of Ward's penitents.