Ursuline Sisters of the Irish Union

 

SCHOOLS RESOURCE PACK

 

SAINT ANGELA MERICI

 

Introduction

On the 25th November 1535, the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Angela Merici founded “The Company of Saint Ursula” a group of women who dedicated their lives to God taking a promise of virginity.  Angela wrote a primitive rule for these women to follow.  Over the years this group developed in many ways – some became known as the Order of Saint Ursula – the Ursuline Sisters.

 

This resource pack offers the following sections to assist in students learning more about Saint Angela and her vision which led her to found the Ursuline Sisters:

 

Section One:    the story of Saint Angela and the founding of the company

Section Two:    some ideas for discussion and activities

Section Three: liturgy for the feast day

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SECTION ONE

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Saint Angela Merici

 

Angela…

a woman who urged her followers to…

act,
bestiryourselves…
to live the dream…

Angela was born to a farming family on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy in 1474.

She was encouraged by her parents in a belief of God who loves and calls. While she received no formal education, her father would read daily from the book “The Lives of the Saints” which filled her with inspirations which endured all her life.  During her teenage years she 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 daily for a sign that her sister was in heaven. Sitting in the fields one day during harvest time Angela experienced a ‘vision’, a powerful experience of God, through which she was convinced of the safety and happiness of her sister and her call to live in the company of consecrated virgins. Her dream was born. She realised God had called her to something new; something special; something full of hope, something that was filled with potential to bring change to the world.

Over many years and many experiences her dream gradually clarified.  Despite other plans of her relatives Angela chose to live a life dedicated to God in her home place in Desenzano. Later leaving behind Lake Garda she moved to the nearby city of Brescia where she became absorbed in the life of the community, supporting, encouraging, becoming known as a woman of God, a woman whose company and wisdom was much sought after.

She was a woman respected by all classes of people as someone who listened and advised. She was known for always having an open door and an open heart too. With her Brescian friends she often took up her pilgrim staff and walked many rocky roads in Italy and across continents to visit the Holy Land and other places. She truly was a woman on a journey, seeking and searching God’s will for her.

Angela was a charismatic woman who attracted others to join her. Angela was by this time coming to her late fifties and still had not made a concrete foundation of her dream when she finally settled in a room beside the church of SaintAfra, where she met with, prayed with and discerned with many companions. At this time young women had two choices in life marriage (usually arranged by their parents) or to join the convent and live life behind the cloister wall. Angela had a different dream for those she believed God was calling to a new way of living. Finally on the 25th November 1535 the first 28 young women signed the Book of the Company of Saint Ursula. 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 the city of Brescia. Their life would be defined by prayer, fasting and reaching out to meet 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…
  • From Ireland to Kenya where still today Ursulines of the Irish Union continue to be involved in education and training
  • From Belgium to India and from Germany to Australia…

So from a dream in a field in the Italian countryside, Ursulines have travelled across the globe spreading the vision of Angela…

v A woman who changed the course of history of religious life…

v A woman who inspired others to reach for the stars and realise their dream of education and training for girls.

v 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

v A woman who lives on in the hearts of thousands of Ursuline sisters, companions and associates throughout the world

v A woman whose message is as relevant today as it was in 1535…when she 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

 

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SECTION TWO

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Discussion ideas:

  • The attitude of society to women in Angela’s time
  • Arranged marriages
  • Life in the cloister of a monastery
  • Family iife in the time of Angela
  • The historical events of the 1400’s and 1500’s that contributed to Angela’s decision
  • The loss of her parents and sister at a young age
  • Her vision for the Company of Saint Ursula
  • The call to a vowed life as a religious woman today – vocation

 

Activities:

  • Invite an Ursuline sister to come and talk about her life today – ask her about her life and how it has changed since she joined the convent OR ask sisters of different ages to come and talk to students
  • Invite a sister to come and talk about vocation today
  • Research all the countries where Ursuline sisters are today
  • Tell the story of Saint Angela as part of your school assembly – use drama, storytelling, music, dance, images and symbols
  • As you read the story of saint Angela reflect on what symbols you might use to tell her story
  • Use a map to show the journey of Ursulines from Brescia across the globe
  • Search the web, books, windows, statues, pictures in your school and make a collection of images of Saint Angela – each student could choose their favourite and share with the class why she/he makes this choice
  • As you look at the wide variety of images of Saint Angela – discuss what they tell you about her, her vision, the Ursuline Sisters
  • Write a poem or song about the life of Saint Angela
  • Create your own piece of art to depict Saint Angela

 

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SECTION THREE

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Preparing to celebrate the Feast of Saint Angela Merici:

Invite students to read the scripture texts given for the feast day…

What message are they offering to us today?

How do they link to the life of Saint Angela?

 

What music or hymns do these readings suggest to you that are appropriate for the feast day celebration?

 

Invite students to write the Prayer of the Faithful based on the life of Saint Angela

 

As you read the life story of Saint Angela what images and symbols are suggested to you?  You could bring these in procession at the beginning of the Mass to help provide a focus for the gathering…

 

Mass for the Feast day of Saint Angela Merici – 27th January

Opening Prayer:         

Lord,

May Saint Angela commend us to your mercy;

May her charity and wisdom help us to be faithful to your teaching and to follow it in our lives.

We ask this through the intercession of Christ our Lord.   Amen

 

First Reading:  Deuteronomy 6:3-9

Moses said to the people:

“Listen then, Israel, keep and observe what will make you prosper and give you great increase, as the Lord, the God of your fathers has promised you, giving you a land where milk and honey flow.

Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart.  You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising; you shall fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The Word of the Lord

 

Psalms:  you may choose to sing the psalm

Some suggestions:      O Lord you are the centre of my life

Oh the word of my Lord

Here I am Lord

The Lord is my shepherd

 

Second Reading:  1 Peter 4:7-11

Keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin.  Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others.  If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

The Word of the Lord

 

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia, alleluia

Blessed are you, Father, for revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom to mere children.

Alleluia

Gospel: Matthew 18:1-4

The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest I the kingdom of heaven.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Prayer over the gifts

Lord, we see the wonder of your love in the life of Saint Angela Merici and her witness to Christ. Accept our gifts of praise and make our offering pleasing to you.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

Prayer after Communion

Lord God, may this Eucharist renew our courage and strength. May we remain close to you, like Saint Angela, by accepting in our lives a share in the suffering of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever.  Amen

 

Suggestions for hymns for Mass

Dear Saint Angela, we thy children

I am here in your midst

O the love of my Lord is the essence

The love I have for you my Lord is only a shadow

This is my will, my one command

Sing it in the valleys

Set your heart on the higher gifts

You are mine