The Ursuline story began in the 1470’s with the birth of Angela Merici in Desenzano, a town on the shores of Lake Garda, Italy, who in 1535 would realise her vision and found the Company of Saint Ursula in the City of Brescia, Italy.
From here we see much growth and change as new developments came to Ursuline life. It was in Avignon, France in 1594 that the members of the Italian Company of Saint Ursula came to live together in community so becoming a Congregation professing vows.
In 1607, in Paris at Rue St Jacques, we see the birth of the Ursuline Monastery and this is the origin of our Irish Ursuline foundation as it was to here that the first four Irish Ursulines were sent to make their Novititate to return to Cork to establish the first Ursuline house in Ireland in 1771 at the invitation of Nano Nagle.
It was from this small beginning in Cork City that Ursuline life in Ireland spread as new Monasteries were established in Thurles, Waterford and eventually in Sligo. Each of these independent monasteries would spread their wings responding to invitations both at home and overseas to come and make new foundations.
Over time and with much prayer and discernment by the Sisters they came together in 1976 to form a Federation and then in 1978 the Irish Ursuline Union was formed by the Monasteries of Cork, Thurles and Sligo and these independent monasteries became one under a central leadership team. The Union expanded in 1982 when the Waterford Sisters joined the Union too.
The biggest area of growth in the Union was seen in Kenya following the acceptance of first group of Aspirants there in 1981. Over time the Sisters in Kenya became a Region within the Union with their own leadership team.
Further change was to come following discernment and discussion begun in 2011 and culminating in 2018 when the Sisters in Ireland, Wales and Kenya became a Province of the Roman Union of the Order of Saint Ursula. Subsequently in 2021 the Kenya region moved to become the Kenya Group as they move towards being established as the Province of Kenya within the Roman Union.
Would Angela Merici ever have envisaged such developments…we do not know but we follow her own words to us in her Last Legacy: