During the religious conflicts of the 16th century, Angela Merici, a visionary and practical woman living in Brescia, Italy, founded a company of women to renew the church from within. In an age when women had only two options—marriage or the cloister—Angela showed women a new way to dedicate their lives to God in contemplation and service of others.
Angela lived in an era when women had no rights. She witnessed disease, starvation, ignorance, political and ecclesial corruption, and exploitation of the poor and of women—much as we do today. She had no illusions that she could solve all those problems, but she listened carefully to the Holy Spirit and decided to do what she could. On Nov. 25, 1535, this woman in her sixties gathered a company of two dozen young women to live the Gospel among the people and help all women recognize their importance and dignity.
The Holy Spirit was Angela’s life-long guide; listening to God, she became a pilgrim, peacemaker, reconciler and leader. Through her writings, her company, which she placed under the patronage of St. Ursula, was left a permanent and available legacy of her spirit.
Image: Benedetto Pietrogrande, “Angèle Merici”; Peter Kostner, sculptor, 1990. Church of St. Angela, Desenzano