FOUNDRESS OF THE URSULINES AND MYSTICAngela Merici was born on March 21st, 1474, at Desenzano on Lake Garda; left an orphan at the age of ten she was brought up by her uncle and on his death went to live with her brothers. She was a devout girl and, having joined the Third Order of St. Francis, devoted herself to teaching children. As her work became known she was asked to go to Brescia where a house was put at her disposal and a number of women came to join her; she was thus enabled to establish a religious association of women, under the patronage of St. Ursula, who, remaining in the world, should devote themselves to every sort of corporal and spiritual work of mercy; but the particular emphasis was on education. Angela's methods were far removed from the modern idea of a convent school; she preferred to send her associates to teach girls in their own families, and one of her favorite sayings was, 'Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family'. It was by educating children in the milieu in which they lived that she strove to effect an improvement in social conditions.
Angela Merici is known now as the foundress of the Ursuline nuns—and so she was, but despite her own inclinations. In reality she was in advance of her own times. Her plan of religious women without distinctive habit, without solemn vows and enclosure, was directly contrary to prevailing notions at her period, and under the influence of St. Charles Borromeo at Milan and subsequent papal legislation (under St. Pius V) the Ursulines were obliged to adopt the canonical safeguards then required of all nuns.
Angela Merici died in Brescia on January 27th, 1540.