St. Angela Merici was born in Desenzano, Italy, in 1474. When she was young, she lost both her sister and her parents, and went to live with a wealthy uncle in Salo. She did not receive a formal education, but grew in wisdom and grace. 

In 1516, Angela came to live in Brescia, Italy. She became a friend of the wealthy nobles there, but she was known for her work with the poor and the suffering. She often spent her days in prayer and fasting, working among the poor. Many people sought her advice and wisdom. 

Angela visited the Holy Land, where she reportedly lost her sight. When she returned to Brescia, the city had become a haven for war refugees. Angela gathered a group of young women, many of them daughters of wealthy families, and some orphans, and formed the Company of St. Ursula, named after the saint whom Angela regarded as a model of consecrated virginity. 

The Ursulines worked with the poor and those in need, opening orphanages and schools. In 1535, they were formally recognized by the pope, and Angela was given the title of founders. 

In the last years of her life, Angela composed a number of Counsels by which the Ursulines should live. She encouraged them to “live in harmony, united together in one heart and one will. Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with one another in Christ Jesus; if you really try to live like this, there is no doubt that the Lord our God will be in your midst.” 

Angela died on January 27, 1540. 40 years later, St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan, encouraged the foundation of Ursuline houses in dioceses across Northern Italy. He also urged the women to live together in community, rather than in their own homes, and to publicly profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. His work formalized Angela’s original Company into a true religious order. 

Angela was canonized in 1807.