Angela Merici, daughter of a pious, middle class farm family, was born in Desenzano, Italy, around 1474. Angela’s time was a time of contradiction; a time of violence and a time of compassion; a time of poverty and a time of wealth. Angela, a product of that time, continually allowed the Holy Spirit to transform her life.
Living most of her life in Brescia, a city in northern Italy, Angela became well known for her ministry of service to the marginalized: the displaced, the poor, the orphaned, the sick. Angela saw women as significant agents of change in a world longing for love, unity and harmony. While still in her teens, 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 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 established quickly in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. Today, thousands of Ursuline Sisters work to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ on six continents. Angela Merici was canonized in 1807 and continues to inspire today’s Ursuline Sisters.