The Ursuline congregation was founded by St Angela Merici in Brescia, Northern Italy in 1535. Angela lived in a time of great disruption in both church and state.
Her biographers describe her as a woman of deep prayer who sought to bring a Christian response to the needs of the times. She placed particular value on the influence and role of women in effecting change and reform.
Subsequently, the Order spread rapidly through Italy and thence to France where the Congregation established schools for the education of youth.
In 1771, through the persuasion of Nano Nagle, four Ursuline Sisters from Rue St. Jacques in Paris came to Cork to make the first Irish foundation. Foundations followed in Thurles in 1787, Waterford in 1816 and Sligo in 1850.
Philosophy of Education
The Ursuline congregation was founded in Italy by St. Angela Merici in 1535. She founded a religious community. She combined open mindedness and religious commitment in a way that opened new possibilities for women. Angela’s religious vision made her community different from any other, giving a particular uniqueness to her spirituality. Ursuline education tries to nurture a community where Christian values are respected, lived and taught. Ursuline education is based on the writings of St Angela Merici, which emphasise:
- Personal relationship with God
- The Holistic education of each individual
- The dignity and uniqueness of each person
- The fostering of courage and confidence to live in justice and truth
- The encouragement of a caring and respectful attitude towards self, others and the environment
Ursuline educators strive to ensure that all student would:
- Be active participants in their own learning
- Reach their academic potential
- Develop talents and gifts unique to each one
- Respect and love their cultural heritage while respecting and appreciating the cultural differences of others
- Develop creativity in their use of leisure
- Develop an enquiring mind, powers of discrimination, self-discipline and leadership skills
- Develop a sense of justice
- Be responsible guardians of our planet
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms is a combination of the original arms of the Ursuline Monastery, Rue Saint Jacques, Paris, and an ancient Badge of the Order of Saint Ursula. This badge dates back to 1607 and provides the Laurel Tree with the legend Ursula Laurus (Laurus being an anagram of Ursula).
- The Laurel Tree is surmounted by a Dove. This is a reference to an old document, which stated that a dove alighted on a tomb in the Cathedral of Cologne to indicate the burial of St. Ursula.
- The dove is flanked by a Cross, the Christian symbol of victory, and an Arrow, symbol of Ursula’s martyrdom. At the base are two Shamrocks, which were added with the arrival of the Ursulines in Ireland in the 18th century.
- The coat of arms of the Monastery of Rue St. Jacques, shows a Halo surrounding the names of Jesus and Mary blended, three Passion Nails at the base and a Cross on top. Over the halo is a Star, which is said to have shone over the house where St. Angela’s body lay awaiting burial.
- The Fleur de Lis, right and left of the cross, recalls the patronage by the House of Bourbon to the St. Jacques Monastery. Motto, taken from the Book of Daniel, was adopted by the order from its early years: “Those who instruct many unto justice will shine like stars for all eternity”. Justice in the Old Testament has often been understood as Right Relationships – with self, others and all of creation; this then forms a significant part of the Religious and Educational Philosophy of Ursuline schools.
- The Crown and Stars represent the award promised to those who fulfil the words of Daniel, and to all who live for the Glory of God alone: “Soli Deo Gloria”. The Ursuline motto “Soli Deo Gloria” (All for the glory of God) is understood and experienced in 2015 in the context of Angela Merici’s spirit and words. Angela’s spirituality was marked by contemplation, an open relationship with others and a willingness to serve. This was founded on a deep trust in the Trinity whom she invoked in the first and last sentence of her Letter and Counsels to her companions. Angela had an exceptional capacity for relating to others- to young and old, to rich and poor, to people in all walks of life. She urged her Company (the Ursulines) to have the same kind of gentle, courteous, respectful relationship with others and to recognise each person as precious to God and created in his image. Today, “Soli Deo Gloria” means that we glorify God in our recognition of his Spirit dwelling in us and in others, in the wonders of creation and especially in those Jesus called the least of his brothers and sisters.