St. Angela Merici
This might be the window most often referred to as we tell the story of the Ursulines
of Chatham and the founding of Brescia University College. That story begins with
the birth of Angela Merici in Desenzano, Italy in 1474.
One of the large panels is an imaginative depiction of St. Angela and St. Ursula.
At the time that Angela founded the Company, there was a popular devotion to St.
Ursula as a patron of youth. Angela chose to name the small band of women after St.
The other central image is of St. Angela in what is called the vision of Brudazzo.
When Angela was a young girl, she had a religious experience of some personal importance
in which she came to understand that she was to do “something” with women. This was
not in any way clear but stayed with her all of her life.
Angela belonged to the Third Order Franciscans, a lay organization which responded
to the many needs of a society ravaged by war. She cared for widows, counselled people,
served the ill and in general, addressed whatever needed to be done.
In this period, women had two options: to be married or to enter the cloister. Angela
did not feel called to either and in effect, developed a third alternative for women.
Gradually, other women were also attracted to her way of being in the world and by
1535, Angela and 28 women formed the Company of St. Ursula. These women continued
to live with their families or at their place of employment, and came together for
prayer and mutual support. They formalized this new beginning by attending Mass together
and signing their names in a book on the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, November
25, 1535 in the city of Brescia, Italy.
This way of life continued for some time. However, the reforms instituted by Charles
Borromeo, Bishop of Milan (1564-1584), imposed the cloister on the Company. No longer
able to move freely among the people, the Ursulines found a new way to serve: inviting
young girls inside the cloister walls to be educated. Thus, began the reputation of
the Ursulines as educators.
The smaller upper panels depict Angela as a woman of prayer and a counsellor, equally
comfortable with the poor, ill and the people of high rank in Church or state. The
lower right panel features three people important in Ursuline history: St. Catherine
of Alexandria, on whose feast (November 25, 1535) the community was founded, St. Augustine,
whose rule was adopted by the Ursulines, and St. Charles Borromeo, the Bishop responsible
for the cloistered stage of Ursuline life.
As a small point of interest, the cornerstone of the Chapel was dedicated on the Feast
of St. Catherine of Alexandria, November 25th, 1925.
View the Stained Glass