OUR URSULINE STORY
The Charism of Angela Merici
It was November 25th, 1535 when Angela Merici and her 28 companions formed
the Company of St. Ursula in Brescia, Italy. Political and moral corruption was
rampant in Europe at this time. In a society ruled and defined by men, where
women were permanently governed by fathers, husbands or pastors, Angela and her
Company offered a distinctively new form of dedicated life.
Unlike nuns of that era, the Company members did not live in monasteries.
Instead, they stayed in their families, continued in their workplaces and were
actively involved in works that raised the dignity of women, children and the
marginalized of society.
The Rule Angela developed, after many conversations with experienced people,
described an revolutionary form of dedicated life. It was the first Rule written
by a woman for women and reflected the spirituality the Company embraced.
Following Angela's death in 1540, her vision of the Company was argued and
questioned. The Company endured. But in an amazing way, her spirit took root in
communities of women called Ursulines, monastic communities. They followed a
revised Rule, not Angela's, and, as communities of women were obliged, they
chose to adopt the Rule of St. Augustine.
As the first teaching order of women, the Ursulines were involved in the
education of girls and women in Italy, France and other parts of Europe. They
made a major impact on the religious education and upbringing of young people in
Europe and eventually in the Americas.
Our Foundation, The Ursulines of the Chatham Union, was established by Mother
Xavier LeBihan who emigrated from LaFaouet, in Brittany France and established
the Chatham Foundation in 1860. This foundation, one of the many families of
Ursulines worldwide is an outgrowth of French Ursuline monasticism and a
new embodiment of the charism of St. Angela. It is interesting that "The
Pines", our first Motherhouse was, in the early years, a monastery.
After The Vatican II Ecumenical Council in the early 1960's, we embraced one
more evolution of dedicated life - an apostolic orientation - an evolution that
had been taking shape for many years. In making this choice, we relinquished
some monastic forms and began the long journey of change towards a way of life
that, in some ways, resembled Angela's original vision.
What marks this apostolic life we embrace is: the contemplative spirit, a
reading and response in ministry to the "signs of the times",
solidarity with the poor and marginalized, and a lifestyle that is required by