In 1535, Saint Angela Merici established the first company of Saint Ursula in Brescia, Italy. She invited and encouraged the women of her day to use their skills and spirits to bring the Good News to God’s people in their own communities. From these humble beginnings, the women who followed Saint Angela in the Order of Saint Ursula (known today as “Ursulines”) have changed the face of the world. Saint Angela’s spirit of service, reconciliation, and teaching each person to recognize the Spirit of God within spread throughout Italy, France, Europe, and the New World.
The Ursulines became pioneers who built schools where none had been and shared the word and hope of God with all. In like manner, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, “sustained by prayer and vowed life in community, proclaim Jesus through education and Christian formation in the Spirit of Saint Angela Merici.” Over their 137-year history, the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph founded or staffed more than 150 schools and colleges in ten states and in South and Central America. In the Archdiocese of Kansas City and in Oklahoma, through the community at Paola, Ursulines opened or staffed more than 15 schools and institutions, including Lakemary Center, a school for children with exceptionalities, which now serves adults as well.
In the first half of the 20th century, those who staffed schools throughout eastern rural Kansas more than likely received their teacher education at the Ursuline Junior College. Perhaps one could say, then, that the Ursulines of Paola were responsible for educating the eastern half of Kansas. The Ursuline Sisters of Paola and of Mount Saint Joseph merged their communities in 2008, joining forces to continue to serve God’s people through direct instruction, parish-based Christian formation, and support for others who seek to serve and educate the people of the Church.