Bi-centenary Waterford: reflection on Angela Merici

Towards the end of our Eucharistic celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the Ursuline foundation in Waterford Sr Breda O’Shea invited us to reflect on the life and vision of Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Sisters…

Angela Merici had a dream in her beloved Italian countryside that came to fruition in 1535. Throughout the centuries, the message of that dream whispered across the globe; it was welcomed in Waterford, our city 200 years ago. We rejoice in Angela’s courage because she acted on her dream with open eyes and made it possible. Why did she do what she did? How did she do it? Has what she did any relevance for our lives today? As we reflect on those questions let us look at some of the core elements of her vision.

Firstly, for Angela, unity was central; a unity in diversity, a unity that we nourish in our hearts and then go out and spread around us. It is a unity we have to work at and long for. In her Last Counsel, she writes: “See how important is this unity and concord. So long for it, pursue it, hold onto it with all your strength”. What could be more relevant in the fragmented times in which we live?

Gospel Peace was very close to Angela’s heart. During her lifetime, she often found herself to be a peacemaker. Like ourselves, she, too lived in turbulent times, masked by wars, injustice and corruption. She excelled in making peace between mothers and fathers, between children and their parents, between nobles and politicians. In her Second Counsel, she writes, “Be gentle and compassionate…….. for you will achieve more with kindness and gentleness than with harshness and sharp rebukes”. She is very clear in her message to all of us to be people of reconciliation at the heart of the world……..a clear call to us today.

What about her attitude to each individual? She understood the uniqueness of each individual as loved by God. She taught us how to transform our hearts, make them places where others feel at home, find their way, and grow in love and happiness. What a challenge!

God clearly graced Angela with a special gift – a vision for all time. She faithfully brought that vision to fruition. She passed the responsibility onto all of us to keep it alive. The particulars will change but the core remains the same. Following in her footsteps may we all in the Ursuline family grow into the persons God called us to be and make a difference in our world.