Saint Angela Merici or Saint Angela de Merici was born on March 21, 1474 and died on January 27, 1540. She was an Italian religious leader and saint who founded the Order of Ursulines in 1535 in Brescia.
Angela Merici was born at Desenzano del Garda, a small town on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy. She and her younger sister were left orphans when she was about ten years old. Together they came to live with their uncle in the town of Salo. Young Angela was very distressed when her sister suddenly died without receiving the last sacraments. She joined the Third Order of St Francis, and increased her prayers to God so her sister’s soul could rest in peace. Legend says that she was satisfied by a vision of her sister in the company of the saints in Heaven.
Angela's uncle died when she was twenty years old and she returned to her previous home in Desenzano. Angela believed that better Christian education was needed for young girls; she then dedicated her time teaching girls in her home, which she had converted into a school. She later allegedly had another vision that revealed to her that she was to found an association of virgins who were to devote their lives to the religious training of young girls. This was a success and she was invited to start another school in the neighboring city, Brescia. She happily accepted this offer.
According to legend, though not substantiated by any extant documentation, in 1524, while traveling to the Holy Land, St Angela Merici became suddenly blind when she was on the island of Crete. Despite this, St Angela continued her journey to the Holy Places and was ostensibly cured of sightlessness upon her return, while praying before a crucifix, at the same place where she was struck with blindness a few weeks before.
In 1525, she came to Rome to gain the Indulgences of the Jubilee year. While doing this task, Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her virtue and success with her school, invited her to remain in Rome. St Angela disliked notoriety, and she soon returned to Brescia.
On November 25, 1535, St Angela chose twelve virgins and started the foundation of the "Company of St Ursula" near the Church of St Afra, in a small house in Brescia. On March 18, 1537, she was elected "Mother and Mistress" (Superior) of the order. Three years later, she died on January 27, 1540. Her body was clothed in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary and interred in the Church of St Afra, Brescia.
Saint Angela Merici was beatified in Rome on April 30, 1768, by Pope Clement XIII. She was later canonized on May 24, 1807, by Pope Pius VII.
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