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St. Angela Merici -

  Foundress of the Ursuline Sisters

 St. Angela was born in the small Italian town of Desenzano on the shore of Lake Garda in 1474. Tradition tells us that Angela came from a middle-class farming family. The Merici family was very close and openly practiced their faith. Giovanni Merici read to his children tales of the great saints of the Church and at a young age Angela was attracted to a life of dedication to God. At a young age, Angela began to practice acts of spiritual devotion and charity, which were to become the hallmarks of her life. She became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, a lay order which emphasized Franciscan ideals. By joining this group, Angela was permitted to receive the Eucharist more frequently.

The age in which Angela lived and worked, the sixteenth century, was a time that saw great suffering on the part of the poor in society.

Injustices were carried on in the name of the government and the Church. The corruption of moral values left families split and hurting. War among nations and the Italian city-states left towns in ruins.

In 1516 (when Angela was about 40 years old), Angela came to live in the town of Brescia, Italy. Here she became a friend of the wealthy nobles of the day and a servant of the poor and suffering. Angela spent her days in prayer, fasting and service. Her reputation spread and her counsel was sought by young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular, male and female.

(About 60 years of age, 1535) Following several pilgrimages, Angela returned to Brescia where she gathered around her a group of women who formed the nucleus of Angela's Company of St. Ursula. Angela named her company after St. Ursula because she regarded her a model of consecrated virginity and patroness of youth.

In beginning her company, Angela never formally conceived of her daughters becoming "nuns" in the traditional sense. Rather, she wanted her company to live in the world, in the homes of those they taught, as models of Christian living. She chose as early leaders of her company many widows who brought with them their own daughters to serve as Ursulines. In this way Angela's early family training was brought to life again in the foundation of the company. As such, Ursulines have consistently devoted themselves to promoting family spirit and the welfare of society as a whole.

Angela Merici died on January 27, 1540. Her body, clothed in the Franciscan habit, was brought to the Church of St. Afra in Brescia. Angela was canonized a saint of the Church in 1807. Today, there are thousands of women across the world who pattern their lives on this noble woman.

Angela Merici was a woman of strength, a woman of vision, but most of all, a woman of God. She truly lived and worked as the Ursuline motto declares: "Soli Deo Gloria - For the Glory of God Alone."

St. Ursula

Patron Saint

According to legend, Ursula, a 4th Century, Christian princess of Britain, was to be given in marriage to a pagan prince. Ursula's father was not in favor of handing his daughter over to a pagan and he also knew she would not agree. By the grace of God, Ursula came up with a proposal to offer the prince and his father, with conditions.

Ursula asked to be granted three years to dedicate her life to God; she asked that the young prince become a Christian and she asked that both kings provide ships with chosen girls to accompany her to Rome to see the Pope. Surprisingly the prince accepted her conditions, was baptized immediately and commanded that they be given the ships for the journey.

The women who accompanied Ursula were also converted to Christianity and eventually all set sail for Rome. The legend continues with the meeting of the Pope and danger to follow on the return trip. Somewhere near Cologne, an army of Huns assembled and attacked the ships for fear that the Christian religion would become stronger. All were killed for their faith and virginity.

Angela Merici knew of Ursula through stories of the saints told to her as a child by her father. Ursula exhibited values that were attractive to Angela and modeled for her what she was looking for in the foundation of her Company. Thus she named the Company after St. Ursula.

St. Ursula was unafraid and willing to meet the challenges that faced her with undying love, strength and confidence. This bold woman set sail in unknown waters with winds and waves beating up against the side of the ship, as she ventured to Rome. She holds out courage to those who follow in Angela's footsteps. St. Ursula, who held close many virgins and maidens who accompanied her, shelters us within her cloak. St. Ursula, who shared her faith and trust in the Lord, reminds us, as St. Angela does, to find refuge in Jesus alone.