Angela Merici

Saint Angela Merici

Feast Day: January 27
Canonized: May 24, 1807
Beatified: April 30, 1768

Would you ever say “no” to the pope? Probably not, unless you thought a higher power than the pope was calling you. Angela Merici knew in her heart that God wanted her to teach the poor. That is why, when Pope Clement VII asked her to head up a group of nurses, she had to tell him “no.” She followed God and her heart and founded the Ursuline Sisters.

Angela was born around 1470 on a farm in Desenzano, Italy. She had three older brothers, an older sister, and a younger sister. The older children and Angela’s parents had all died before Angela was an adult. She and her younger sister were cared for by an uncle, but he died when Angela was a young woman.

People knew Angela really loved God. She spent a lot of her time praying. She was especially fascinated by St. Ursula, who was the daughter of a British Christian king in the 10th century. Several legends exist regarding Ursula, but Angela understood her to be someone executed for not marrying a pagan prince.

After her uncle died, Angela went to Brescia, Italy, where a wealthy family helped her open a school for young women. She had been concerned that education was not an option for women who were not wealthy. At the school, Angela taught the girls about God.

Around this time, the pope, Clement VII, asked her to head a group of women nurses. Angela believed God wanted her to do something else. She had a clear understanding of her dream: many people in Italy were poor and sick. They lived in pitiful conditions. Angela saw that the wealthy were doing fine, but the these poor people had no one to care for them.

In November of 1535, she gathered a group of women to help take care of the city’s poor. They called themselves Ursulines, because they believed St. Ursula would protect them. They divided Brescia into sections, and the Ursulines went out in groups to help take care of and teach young women.

Since that time, almost 500 years ago, the Ursuline community can be found throughout the world teaching and caring for those who will hear the Good News. They were the first teaching order of women religious.

Angela died in 1540. Her body lies buried in the Church of St. Afra at Brescia. She was beatified in 1768 by Pope Clement XIII and canonized in 1807 by Pope Pius VII.

St. Angela is the patron of disabled and physically challenged people and illnesses.

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