Ursuline Sisters of the Irish Union


Schools Resource Packs

Junior Cert Religious Education Syllabus

Resource Pack


In the Junior Certificate Religious Education Syllabus the students are asked to study a particular “Community of Faith” looking at its Founder; its founding vision; its members and how they make a difference in society today. For some students this theme also appears as a topic for the project undertaken towards the examination.

In this resource we have outlined for teachers and students the key concepts which need to be understood, the story of our Ursuline Foundress, Angela Merici and how this religious congregation, the Ursulines, keeps alive the founding vision today.


The pack comprises of three sections:

  • The key concepts
  • The founding vision: “Angela’s dream”
  •  Ursuline Sisters today: “keeping the dream alive…”




Key Concepts:

In order to respond to the examination questions students need to understand the key concepts which underpin the term “community of faith”.

Religious Vocation: this is the personal invitation received from God through the Holy Spirit which leads a person to choose to live their life in the service of the Mission of Jesus Christ and other people. They are drawn to a particular group through the founding vision and the story of the Founder.


Founder: this is the person whose initial idea, ideal, teaching and example becomes the inspiration for others to follow and so the group/community comes into permanent existence.


Inspiring Vision: this is the initial idea, dream or ideal which led to the founding of a particular way of life. It is the ideal which a group or community seek to keep alive.


Vocation as calling to serve: this is the call of God to an individual or group to live according to His will and to take on roles/tasks for the good of the Kingdom of God and of all people.

Mission: this is the task undertaken by one of the members of the community at the request of the community and/or its leadership.


Ministry: this is the service given to others either within the community or in society by a community or one of its members


Commitment: this is a promise made to a group or a community to carry out a particular task or role.


Religious Commitment: this is the promise made to undertake to live one’s life according to the call of God and involves taking on particular tasks or ministries.


Service: this is the professional job (teacher; lecturer; doctor; nurse; pastoral worker) or role in the community (leader; bursar) or in the congregation (leader, vocations director) undertaken by a member to further the good of others in society. They offer their time, talents, educational qualifications, expertise for the benefit of others.


Leadership: the one who undertakes this role of leading the community or group sets the overall goals and aims of the community/group and invites others to direct their energies towards its realisation. The leader constantly guides and directs the members towards these ideals.


Roles: these are specific tasks undertaken by members of the group in the service of the

group/community (bursar, leader, vocation director)





The Founding Vision: Angela’s Dream

Outlined below is the story of Angela Merici, the Foundress of the Ursuline Sisters. Within the story teachers and students will notice the key concepts are highlighted/italicised throughout the text to help with your understanding.

Story of Angela

Angela’s Feast Day is the 27th of January.

Angela Merici was canonised “Saint Angela” in May 1807 and her statue stands in Saint Peter’s alongside those of the Founders of other major religious orders.

Who is Angela Merici?

Angela Merici was born in the old part of Desenzano on the Via Castello Casa Natale on Lake Garda, Northern Italy in 1474. As a young girl her family moved out to a small farmhouse called

Le Grezze where they also had vineyards. Like all young girls of her day she helped her mother around the house and assisted with the family farm and vineyard.

Angela received no formal education but her father would read daily from the book, The Lives of the Saints. This is how she would have learned about Saint Ursula. Angela was encouraged by her parents to develop the habit of prayer and fasting.


From the beginning how did Angela come to found the Ursulines?

During her teenage years, Angela suffered the death of both her parents and her sister to whom she was very close. Following this double loss in her young life, Angela prayed for a sign that her sister was in Heaven.

What happened? Did she receive a sign?

Sitting in the fields one day during harvest time, Angela experienced a vision. According to the words of one, ‘she saw the heavens open and a procession of angels and young girls coming towards her, surrounded by a bright light. As the procession passed by her, she recognised one of the young girls as her beloved sister’. Looking to the future Angela understood that God wanted to make use of her to establish a community of dedicated young women. This inspiring vision set a new path for her. She believed in that her life was now moving in a new direction. Angela knew she had been called by God to something new, something special, something full of hope, something filled with potential to bring change to the lives of others.


What happened next?

Angela left behind Lake Garda and the relatives with whom she had stayed after the death of her parents. She moved on in her life and began to search for the meaning of this vision. She took up her pilgrim staff. She walked many rocky roads in Italy and across the continents to visit the Holy Land. She walked in the footsteps of Jesus. She truly was a woman on a journey in life, seeking and searching God’s will for her.


What kind of woman was Angela?

Leadership. Angela was a charismatic woman who attracted others to her. When she finally arrived in Brescia and settled into a room beside the Church of Saint Afra, she had gathered many companions and was a woman respected by all classes as someone who listened and advised. She was noted as always having an open door, and also an open heart. Angela was by this time coming into her late fifties and still she had not laid a concrete foundation to her vision. All around her she saw sickness, disease, poverty and war.

Service. She was also aware of the breakdown in family life. She spent her days meeting people, praying with them, helping them in their difficulties to offer them hope. She saw all these needs and sought to respond to them, but only after many, many hours of prayer before the cross, the symbol of Christ’s own suffering.


What helped Angela to discover the way forward?

It was through prayer that she discovered the way forward to realise her dream.

Inspiring vision. She offered young women a third option in life. At this time young girls had two choices, marriage (usually arranged by their parents) or to join a convent and life behind the cloister wall. Angela came to see that to influence others to change their ways, role models were needed within the home and society. And so the dream was fulfilled, Angela founded the Ursulines. (The Company of Saint Ursula)


When was the Company founded?

Foundation. On the 25th November 1535 the first 28 young women signed the book of The Company of St. Ursula.

Commitment/Religious Commitment/Vocation. Religious life for women took on a new dimension. These young women would live at home, or at their place of work if they were in service, or in twos or threes in small houses all scattered throughout Brescia. Their life would be defined by prayer, fasting, reaching out to serve the needs of others, and most importantly by their commitment to chastity.

The world had received a new and special gift. A gift that would spread over the coming years and centuries.

From Brescia in Italy, across Europe – to France, to Germany, to Ireland, to England.

From France to the New World of the Americas when Marie of the Incarnation sailed to Canada to found an Ursuline school.

From Ireland to Wales and Kenya on the Continent of Africa, where still today Ursuline Sisters are involved in education, nursing, and other ministries.

From Belgium to India where Ursulines continue to minister.

From Germany to Australia.

From an inspired vision in a field in the Italian countryside, Ursulines now travel across the globe spreading the flame of inspiration lit by this very special woman.

Inspiring Vision. A woman who changed the course of history of religious life. A woman who inspired others to reach for the stars and realise their dreams of education and training for girls.

Service/Mission/Ministry. A woman who continues to inspire and challenge us today to be aware of the needs around us and to respond generously in love, following the teachings of the Gospel.

A woman who lives on in the hearts of thousands of Ursuline Sisters throughout the world.

A woman whose message is as relevant today as it was in 1535 when Angela invited young women to

‘Do something,

Get moving,

Be confident,

Risk new things,

Stick with it,

Get on your knees.’

Then be ready for ‘Big surprises’. (Angela’s writings)




Ursuline Sisters Today: “keeping the dream alive…”

Today Ursuline Sisters follow the one Mission “the Mission of Jesus Christ” as outlined in the Gospel texts “to bring Good News to all people and to free them from all kinds of oppression in their daily lives.

Angela Merici inspires us to assist all people whom we meet to be the best that they can be in their lives and to do this by gentle encouragement, support and love.

Today you will meet Ursuline Sisters who: (service/ministry) Teach in primary, secondary and tertiary education institutes

Are nurses, doctors and health care workers

Work in the community in parishes and in dioceses

Are in retreat and prayer ministry

Ursuline Sisters today constantly try to respond in the best way possible to the often varied and unexpected needs that emerge in our world and in the communities in which we live.

We live a life centred on prayer and profess the three vows (evangelical counsels) of chastity, poverty and obedience.

We live in communities each with its own named leader and bursar who are at the service of the community members.


Roles. They devote some of their time to meeting the needs of the community members so that each member feels loved and valued as a person. They are also responsible for the administration of the community and for its finances.

Within the Ursuline Union some Sisters take on particular roles such as Congregational Leader

who oversees the smooth running of all the communities and who guides the communities and individual members in their daily lives and their ministries so that all are faithful to the founding vision of Angela Merici.

Other roles include:

Bursar: she is responsible for the finances of the Ursulines

Vocation Director: she is responsible for meeting women who are interested in knowing more about religious life as an Ursuline.

Formation Director: she is responsible for women who join the Ursulines. She accompanies them for the first few years after they join the Ursulines.

This is a very brief outline of Ursulines today. More information can be found on other pages of our website, for example:

Who we are?   What we do?   Where we are?  Join us…


Ursuline Sisters are always willing to be interviewed or to meet students to tell them more about our way of life. Contact us via this web site