Have faith and keep up your courage.
– St. Angela Merici
St. Angela Merici, daughter of a pious, middle-class farm family, was born in Desenzano, Italy, around 1474 and is the trailblazing foundress of the Order of St. Ursula. She lived in a time of war, civil strife, and violence; a time of great progress in science, travel, the arts, and agriculture; a time of great holiness and of great corruption; a time of church reform and of church oppression and scandal. Angela, a product of that time, continually allowed the Holy Spirit to transform her life. Living most of her life in Brescia in northern Italy, Angela became well-known for her ministry of service to the marginalized: the displaced, the poor, the orphaned, the sick, and especially women.
St. Angela saw women as significant agents of change in a world longing for love, unity, and harmony. Still a teen, Angela received a vision instructing her to form a “company of women” to further the work of God. On November 25, 1535, Angela and 28 young women formed the Company of Saint Ursula. Members lived in their own homes or with one or two other members of the company. They were to be women of prayer and virtue with a simple rule, and they had spiritual leaders to whom they would be accountable and who would strengthen and direct them.
After Angela’s death on January 27, 1540, the Company of Saint Ursula spread rapidly. Ursuline communities were quickly established in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. Today, thousands of Ursuline Sisters (link to About the Ursuline Sisters page) work to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ on six continents, in schools, and in ministries for the poor and oppressed. At Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, our students live the Serviam tradition established by St. Angela in her service to those in need and learn in an environment of Christian love and respect. An Ursuline education transcends both centuries and continents, bearing the tradition of strong, faith-filled women formed to serve the community and the world.
For writings by St. Angela Merici, click here.
About the Ursuline Sisters
When Saint Angela Merici founded the company of Saint Ursula in 1535, the young women of Brescia, Italy had two options in life: they could marry or enter a cloister. Angela gave them a new option: they could live with their families and stay at their workplaces, while living a life dedicated to God and to the service of others. This desire to empower women is still an important part of Ursuline life today.
The Spirit of Angela Today
The Ursuline Sisters are modern women who carry on Angela’s tradition of progressive ministry in their communities. We dare each day to confront the oppression of women and to stand in solidarity with the poor. As women who profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, we are committed to education and action for social justice. We bring the Gospel of Jesus to all while acting as agents of peace through justice in all our relationships, towards all peoples and cultures, towards the earth and all creation.
In addition to educating young people in schools, Ursuline sisters in 36 countries respond to the needs of God’s people in parishes, in ministry with the poor and marginalized, in retreat work, counseling, and pastoral care. We are proud of our rich history and heritage, committed to the challenges of the present, and excited about the future before us.