The Ursuline Sisters were founded by Saint Angela Merici in Brescia, Northern Italy in 1535. Angela lived in a time of great disruption in both church and state. Her biographers describe her as a woman of deep prayer who sought to bring a Christian response to the needs of the times. She placed particular value on the influence and role of women in effecting change and reform. Discerning God’s will and establishing a radically different expression of consecrated life for women became her life’s task.
Angela envisaged a consecrated life lived not behind monastic walls but in the world, where women cared for the poor and infirm and came together for prayer on a regular basis. Her Rule was unique, the first to be written by a woman, as it set forth “the giving of oneself to Christ for radical living in an everyday setting.” The Company of St. Ursula was founded in November, 1535, when 27 women committed themselves to the rule, and Angela adopted Saint Ursula as Patroness.
Subsequently, the Order spread rapidly through Italy and thence to France where the Sisters’ lives became more structured, and where they established schools for the education of youth. Mère Francoise de Bermond, one of the first French Ursulines, worked closely with the Jesuits in Paris and initiated the elements of “The Ursuline Method of Education”. In 1771, through the persuasion of Nano Nagle, four Ursuline Sisters from Rue St. Jacques in Paris came to Cork to make the first Irish foundation. Foundations followed in Thurles in 1787, Waterford in 1816 and Sligo in 1850.
The Ursuline vision of education, informed by the Gospels and the teachings St Angela, nurtures a community where Christian values are respected, lived and taught. These principles are articulated in the Six Touchstones of Ursuline Education:
- A personal relationship with God.
- The holistic development of each individual.
- The dignity and uniqueness of each person.
- The importance of courtesy and kindness.
- The fostering of courage & confidence to live in justice and truth.
- The encouraging of a caring & respectful attitude towards self, others and the environment.
Angela Merici, woman of love.
Angela Merici, open to new possibilities.
Angela Merici, listener and pilgrim.