St. Angela Merici 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.
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.
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. She lived during a time of great turmoil in the Church. 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 as 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.
Spiritual formation is her gift to our community and to the world. Her charism emphasizes contemplative presence in the world and we continue to model her way of life. Angela Merici was a woman of strength, a woman of vision, a woman of the Church, but most of all, a woman of God. She truly lived and worked as the Ursuline motto declares: "Soli Deo Gloria - For God Alone."
Angela Merici died on January 27, 1540. Angela was canonized a saint of the Church in 1807.