Today Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast of St. Angela Merici, a woman who devoted her life to the “re-Christianization” of families by educating wives and mothers. When asked why she focused so strongly on women, she explained: “Convert the woman and one converts the whole family.”
Yet she came from a not-so-perfect family herself. She was an orphan from her early years and went on to live with her uncle.
She became a member of the Third Order focusing her energies on deed and prayer. Sometime in her life she felt called to find a religious society in Brescia. Years went by, but she responded to the call ten years later and worked to educate girls from the middle and low classes.
It was a tall order, one she soon realized she could not accomplish herself. 28 women joined her religious community, called the Company of St. Ursula. (St. Ursua is the patron saint of universities and one whom Angela pattered her life after.)
As mentioned earlier, one of Angela’s passions was service to the poor, and she wanted very much to incorporate that element into the Company of St. Ursula. The problem was that female religious communities, at the time, were not allowed to leave their convents unless there was an emergency.
Some of the sisters went to Rome to see about obtaining an exception, and they were successful. This meant that the 28 women, and Angela herself, would live in their own homes, but were therefore able to go out and serve those women in need.
St. Charles Borromeo, 40 years later, asked that the sisters become a religious community living in a convent, for obvious reasons. And so it happened, but the Ursulines continue to serve in a very active way to this day.