The Ursulines is a story of forward thinking women who were able to stand out and distinguished themselves in their lives and in their faith. Throughout the ages, with the constraints and the challenges of each century, these inspiring women are still today examples of accomplishment.
Angele Merici is born around 1474 at Desenzano in Italy. Her parents are Jean Merici and Catherine de Bianchi. Later the family moved to Grezze where she knows the joys and the work of countryside living. At the death of her parents, Angele is welcomed by her uncle where she becomes a Franciscan of the Third Order in order to follow Jesus more closely.
Later returning to Grezze, she is known by everyone as « Sister Angele » and she accepts a mission of comforting and mediation at Brescia, in Lombardie. She seeks the will of God by participating, among other things, in pilgrimages. Afterwards she consecrates herself to God’s work gatherings young women who desire to give themselves to God and who don’t feel called to live in a monastery. Without being linked to a common activity, the women of her group however, are not isolated; they belong to a spiritual family sustained by a Rule and placed under the Patronage of Saint Ursule, virgin and martyr. The Foundation of the “Company of Saint Ursule » takes place on November 25, 1535. Angele dies at Brescia on January 27, 1540. She is canonized May 24, 1807.
During the era of Angele Merici, the devotion to Saint Ursule is very popular; this is why Angele chose her as Patroness of her Company.
According to the legend, Ursule is a British princess who had lived in the 4th century. Requested to be married with a pagan prince, she accepted the union on the condition that he be baptized and be instructed in the Christian faith. During this time, Ursule takes on a long pilgrimage accompanied by 11,000 virgins (the reality would rather be 11 virgins ?). They go to Cologne, which is then besieged by the Huns. The barbarians massacre all of them except Ursule, who wins the heart of the prince of Huns by her beauty. He requests to wed her, but rather than to betray her faith, she refuses and is pierced by a lance.
She is born on October 28, 1599, at Tours in France, under the name of Marie Guyart. Very young, she aspires to the religious life, but at 17 her parents arrange her marriage to Claude Martin, master worker of silk. Two years later, she finds herself a widow and mother of a 6 month old son. A remarkable business woman, she passes the following years working for the enterprise of her son-in-law while watching over the education of her son.
In 1631, she entrusted her 12 year old son to her family and entered the novitiate of the Ursulines of Tours. When she pronounces her vows, she takes the name of Marie de l’Incarnation. In a dream she hears a call for a mission in Canada: she wishes to go to New France in order to evangelize the young Amerindians.
After an eventful journey, she arrives in Quebec August 1, 1639 and founds the Monastery of the Ursulines. She dies on April 30, 1672.
She is beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2014.
Marie-Madeleine de Chauvigny born in 1603, at Alençon in France, at a young age manifests an interest for the religious life. Her father, not having a masculine heir destines her for an aristocratic marriage. At 19 years of age she weds the knight of Gruel, the Lord de la Peltrie. Five years after their union, her spouse dies and leaves Mrs. de la Peltrie a widow and the landlord of an important fortune.
After reading the Relationship of the Jesuits of 1635 and upon the request of Father Lejeune for the foundation of a convent of teaching religious in Quebec, she decides to consecrate her fortune to the missions of New France. A grave sickness curtails the project, but she is miraculously healed when she promises to Saint Joseph to leave for Canada and to build him a church.
She enters into communication with Marie de l’Incarnation and, despite the desire of her father to remarry she leaves for New France. Considered as the lay foundress of the Ursulines of Quebec, she dies on November 18, 1671.
Marie de Savonnières de la Troche is born on September 7, 1616 at Château de Saint-Germain in France. In her childhood she demonstrates an attraction for religious life. Having entered the novitiate of the Monastery of the Ursulines of Tours at 14 years old, she pronounces her vows under the name of Marie de Saint-Bernard. She gets to know Marie de l’Incarnation who shares her dreams for New France with her. She offers herself as a companion for the mission but her parents strongly oppose her departure. So, she asks Saint Joseph to intervene in her favor and leaves France on the same boat as Mary of the Incarnation. She changes her name to Marie de Saint-Joseph as a sign of gratitude.
At her arrival in Quebec, she is principally in charge of students. Very close to the Amerindians, she puts a lot of efforts in learning the languages of the Autochthons. She dies on April 4, 1652.
Mother Marie de Saint-Joseph is the first French Ursuline to be buried in the garden of the monastery of Quebec.
Cécile Richer is born in France around 1609.
Called to the religious life, she enters the Ursulines of Dieppe, where she takes the habit under the name of Cécile de Sainte-Croix. In April 1639, she meets Marie de l'Incarnation and Marie de Saint-Joseph who are getting ready to leave for Canada with the intention of founding a seminary consecrated to the education of the little Amerindians. Desiring to accompany them in their mission, on April 21 1639 she receives the letter from the Archbishop which permits her to go to New France.
Cécile de Sainte-Croix arrives in Quebec August 1, 1639. In a long letter dated September 2nd , she writes the summary of the crossing of the Atlantic and of the arrival of the first Ursulines in Québec.
She undertakes the learning of the languages of the Autochthons and is responsible of supplying the monastery.
At the death of Mary of the Incarnation in 1672, Cécile de Sainte-Croix becomes the last representative of the foundresses of the community in Quebec. Another trial awaits her in 1686, when the monastery is again in flames. She finishes her days in the house constructed for the benefactor Marie-Madeleine de Chauvigny de La Peltrie, in which the religious find a temporary refuge.
She dies in Quebec September 15, 1687.
Read the summary of the trip of Mere Cecile de Sainte-Croix