Saint Angela Merici

Saint Angela Merici
Born: 21st March c1470
Died: 27th January 1540
Feast Day: 27th January
Patron Saint: Disabled and Illness
Shrine: Church of St. Afra, Brescia, Italy
Beatified:  30th April 1768 by Pope Clement XIII 
Canonised: 24th May 1807 by Pope Pius VII

Saint Angela was born on 21st March around 1470 on a farm in Desenzano, Italy, the fifth child of six. Before Angela became an adult, bother her parents and her four older siblings had all died.  She and her younger sister went to live with their Uncle, but he died a few years later.  She was a pious woman who had a particular devotion to Saint Ursula and as a young woman entered the Third Order of Saint Francis (Laypeople living like religious).  Like St Francis, she did not want to own anything and lived an austere life.  From very early on she was disappointed by the lack of education in the poorer section particular for girls, seeing the risks of uneducated girls being sexually or financially abused, and would give lessons on leading a religious life, encouraging others to join her.  She was a charming and pretty woman with natural leadership skills, offering her great teaching ability.

She had a vision that she would one day establish a religious community helping the poor and sick in Brescia in Northern Italy and was invited to live with a wealthy family there.  She continued her teaching and became well known and popular and attracted other likeminded people.  Around this time, the Pope, Clement VII, invited Angela to head up a group of nurses, however as she believed God had different plans, she refused the Pope.

She took a trip to the Holy land but on arriving as far as Crete was struck with blindness.  Her companions tried to persuade her to abandon the pilgrimage and return home, but she insisted on continuing and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion as if she were able to see.  On the way home, in the same place as she lost her sight, she was praying before the cross and miraculously her sight returned.

Around 1530 Angela started catechetical work with a group of 12 other women.  She formed them into the Company of Saint Ursula (Ursulines) four years later when there were 28 women helping.  They worked from their homes, had no special uniform but were expected to live a life of obedience, poverty, and virginity.  They were women in the World but not of the World. Females teaching at this time took a long while to accept and therefore the community existed as a “secular Institute” until sometime after Angela died.  Ursuline Communities can now be found throughout the World caring and teaching the good news.

Angela, predicted her own death to the hour and many miracles are said to have occurred at her tomb since her death.