About Our Founder

Angela Merici’s life was an amazing journey of love, trauma, faith and miracles.

She was born to a close-knit family in northern Italy in 1474. Her closest companions were her parents and beloved sister. Together they worked her father’s farm on Lake Garda, where she was encouraged to pray and fast — practices she continued her entire life.

Though they weren’t wealthy, the Mericis owned the book The Lives of the Saints. Angela’s favorite story was that of St. Ursula.

Then tragedy struck. First her parents died, and shortly after, her sister. Distraught over her loss, Angela prayed for a sign that her family was in heaven.

One day during harvest, Angela was alone in the fields when she experienced a life-changing vision: the heavens opened, and angels and young women came toward her singing a melody, surrounded by light. One of the young girl’s was Angela’s sister.

From this experience, Angela knew it was her purpose to establish a community of religious and dedicated young women; the foundation of the Order of St. Ursula, named to honor Angela’s favorite saint, was laid.

Angela’s early adulthood was spent in service to others as a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. She led a simple life, sleeping but a few hours a night on a palate on the floor. Much of her waking hours were spent praying.

At this time, warring factions fractured peace in Italy. The Catholic Church was rife with corruption. The crushing social, economic and religious upheaval left many victims in its path.

When Angela was 40, she traveled to Brescia to aid a woman who’d just lost her husband and two sons. On her way, Angela encountered the religious reform movement Divino Amore.

Catering to the needs of the time, Divino Amore established infirmaries for syphilis sufferers, cared for widows and their families, and founded an orphanage and a shelter for former prostitutes. These experiences influenced Angela’s ministry later in life.

Over the years, Angela herself suffered illness and difficulties. But her devotion to God and her commitment to Gospel living never wavered. Women and men gathered around Angela as their spiritual center.

In 1535, Angela founded her company with 28 companions and other followers. She died Jan. 27, 1540, leaving behind much wisdom in her counsels. She was canonized in 1807.

Today, Ursuline Sisters, Companions and Associates are found across the world, continuing her mission to live the Gospel by meeting the needs of the times.