Saint Angela Merici was born on March 21st, 1474, at Desenzano, a small town on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy. She founded the Order of the Ursulines and died on January 27th, 1540 in Brescia.
She was left an orphan at the age of ten and together with her elder sister came to the home of her uncle at the neighbouring town of Salo where they led an angelic life. When she was twenty years old, her uncle died, and she returned to her paternal home at Desenzano. She saw that all around her hometown there were poor girls with no education and no hope. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Angela lived in, education for women was for the rich or for nuns.
These girls weren’t being helped by the old ways, so Angela invented a new way. She brought together a group of unmarried women, fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the streets to gather up the girls to teach them about God. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedication to education and commitment to Christ. Living in their own homes, they met for prayer and classes where Angela reminded them, ” Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve the poor than they have of your service.” They were so successful in their service that Angela was asked to bring her innovative approach to education to other cities, and impressed many people, including the Pope.
In 1524, while making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she became suddenly blind when she was on the island of Crete, but continued her journey to the Holy Places and was cured on her return while praying before a crucifix at the same place where she was struck with blindness a few weeks before. When, in the jubilee year 1525, she had come to Rome to gain the indulgences, Pope Clement VII, who had heard of her great holiness and her extraordinary success as a religious teacher of young girls, invited her to remain in Rome; but Angela, who shunned publicity, returned to Brescia.
St. Angela Merici was a generous, helpful and loving person during her lifetime. She tried to make the world a better place by following in the footsteps of God, and by teaching others to do so. Her body lies buried in the Church of St. Afra at Brescia. She was beatified in 1768, by Clement XIII, and canonized in 1807, by Pius VII. Her feast is celebrated on January 27th.