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Feast of St. Angela - January 27, 2024

St. Angela Merici is very important to our mission and legacy as Brown County Ursulines. She founded the Ursulines in 1535, nearly 500 years ago, in Brescia Italy. She gathered a group of local women around her to live outside the cloister who all became influential for the young girls in the neighborhood. St. Angela believed that hope for the future rested in the hands of women.


In celebration St. Angela's Merici's Feast Day on Saturday, January 27th, we have compiled four reflections written by three Ursuline Sisters and one Ursuline Academy educator. Join us in celebrating this inspiring woman and please enjoy the following reflections.


“IN EVERYTHING, WILLINGLY BE GENTLE.”

Saint Angela’s Third Legacy


St. Angela and Bread. Artist: Sister Mary Jane Robertshaw, OSU. Completed in 1960 and now resides in the Chapel of the Ursulines in New Rochelle, NY

Reflection by Sr. Patricia Homan, Congregational Minister, Ursulines of Brown County


My understanding of St. Angela is the that of a Gentle woman. Calm but aware, engaging but not attention seeking. Always respectful and kind, regardless of who the other is or from where they come. I see her as a listener, open to the thoughts and feelings of others. She does not judge nor is she critical, but accepting and supportive. I think St. Angela was gentle on the inside as well as the outside. I see her as a woman of integrity, genuine in her thoughts, words, and deeds. For me she is an example of who and how I want to be. It is easier to be gentle with my friends and family. It is more challenging with strangers and the difficult situations I may encounter. St. Angela, help me be a gentle woman, following in your example. Help me to be more concerned about others and willing to be open and supportive. Amen.



 

Tapping into the Legacy of Saint Angela


Reflection by Jeanine Boutiere, Ursuline Academy of Cincinnati alumna (’01) and educator

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, I was blessed, along with one of my colleagues from Ursuline Academy of Cincinnati, and three of our incredible students, to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana and make retreat with our Ursuline sisters. The retreat, organized by the Ursuline Educational Network, was focused on the life and legacy of Saint Angela and how we could live “Forward, Faithfully & Joyfully”. This pilgrimage, with participants from 8 Ursuline high schools from around the country, provided opportunities to grow in knowledge, sisterhood, and faith alongside other women who wish to walk in the path of St. Angela.


Through prayer, reflection, conversations, nature walks, and tours, retreatants learned about who Angela was, her impact on the Ursulines, and her robust legacy that lives in us and all across the world today. While on Retreat, we were called to read portions of Mary-Cabrini Durkin’s “Angela’s Story” and reflect on her journey and the characteristics she displayed through the different stages and challenges of her life. I focused my reflection on the experiences Angela had with her companions as they made pilgrimage to the Holy Land. My understanding of my own path of faith and companionship grew by seeing the parallels between her journey and ours.


Despite the risks and discomfort inherent in travel during that time period, St. Angela felt called to venture out into the world, providing counsel, consoling those in sickness or grief, and in 1524 making pilgrimage to the Holy Land, following in Jesus' footsteps. Just to make it to their departing ship, their group adapted to last-minute changes, challenging weather conditions, and fears, up until the last minute, that the journey would not happen. On our pilgrimage to New Orleans, we too, experienced similar obstacles, with uncertainties, weather-related travel disruptions, and the challenges of sharing sleeping quarters with 15 other people! We pushed forward, as Angela and her companions did, guiding one another, with committed hearts, knowing that we were fulfilling our calling to build community through Christ.


Angela's group of around 40 pilgrims, with their traveling sacks and water bottles, were blessed and participated in ceremonies to ensure a safe and fulfilling journey. They launched into seemingly endless waters, waters that would lead them closer to God. This modern company was also comprised of nearly 40 women, with our traveling sacks and water bottles in hand, as we sought deeper connection with each other, Saint Angela, the Ursuline Legacy, and God. We've prayed with one another, blessed each other, and engaged in ceremonies to prepare our hearts for the experience. We even set out over seemingly endless waters, as we drove across Lake Pontchartrain, and indeed found ourselves drawn nearer to one another and God.

During their pilgrimage, Angela temporarily lost her eyesight, a scary and unexpected bump in the road. Her companions served as her eyes and supported her on the journey, making God’s love visible, more tangible than the sights that the places to which they journeyed could provide. In hard times on their path, Angela relied on her companions to help bring her closer to Christ. And just as Angela’s companions helped her to fully experience their journey, despite the many barriers, so did our sisters that weekend in January. Our bumps in the road may not have been as scary or limiting as losing our eyesight, but the challenges of leaving behind school, work, and family, the comforts of the familiar, and the safety of our own communities, gave us the beautiful opportunity to be led by our new Ursuline companions.


The legacy of Saint Angela Merici is alive and well in the students and supporting adults that surround them, and this experience was concrete evidence of that. Connecting to the rich history of incredible thinkers, servant leaders, and change-makers that have been inspired by Angela, has given me renewed purpose and energy. I feel the calling to ensure that our halls are a place in which young women will be inspired to live Gospel values, to adapt to changing times with prudence, to show up as servant leaders, and to foster a community where all are welcome to the table, just like she did. If the students we were fortunate enough to make this retreat with are any indication, the vision of Saint Angela will indeed continue to guide us and others forward, both faithfully and joyfully.


 

Do something. Get moving. Be confident. Risk new things. Stick with it. Get on your knees. Then be ready for big surprises.


Reflection by Sr. Phyllis Kemper, OSU Ursulines of Brown County.


I had lived at our motherhouse in Brown County for five years before I started nursing school. I loved the rural people so it was a no brainer to me to want to work at Clermont Mercy Hospital after graduation. The hospital served the rural counties of Adams, Brown and Clermont so I was able to work with and minister to the people I so dearly loved. My six years as a medical surgical nurse prepared me for my ultimate goal of working in the community as a home care nurse. My territory was in southeastern Clermont County, very rural and very Appalachian. I didn't tell my patients that I was a Catholic sister until I knew they felt comfortable with me because Catholics where very suspect in that area.


One of the greatest challenges for me in working for a home care agency was that I had to discharge patients who no longer met the Medicare criteria for home care but still needed someone to help them manage their health care. I thought, “this isn't why I became a nurse, to tell people they're not eligible for the care they needed because they were not homebound, or didn't need skilled care,” or the other criteria determined by Medicare. I really wanted to find a ministry where I could provide nursing care for the people who were falling between the cracks of the health care system in our area.


A position for a community health nurse within the health system was posted, so I quickly applied for it. The job would be to work in the Brown County area providing health education and health monitoring. It seemed like it was a dream come true. However, as I waited to learn if I was accepted for the position, I kept having negative thoughts: I'll be driving into the sun going to work and then coming home from work, it would be a challenge to work with the director of an outreach program I would be at one day a week, and on and on and on. I realized this wasn't really the attitude to have starting a new job. I was not accepted for the job because one member of the team thought we would work well together. Despite all the negative thoughts I was devastated because I desperately wanted to find a new ministry in nursing.


My self-confidence and self-esteem took a hit so I did as Angela admonished us to do and I put it all at the feet of Jesus. A few months later I was talking to one of the sisters in my community who was the administrator of an urban parish in Cincinnati. Her parish had a nurse through the Good Samaritan Hospital Parish Nurse Ministry who was doing just the kind of work that I dreamt of doing. Mary suggested that they might have a position open in any of the urban or inner-city neighborhoods the program served. Right away I said that I had only worked in the rural area and was totally unfamiliar working with inner-city folks (African Americans and urban Appalachians). Mary encouraged me to take the risk and at least ask for an interview.


When I met with the program manager, I learned that there was hardly any turnover in that department of ten nurses. However, one of the nurses was resigning to care for her chronically ill husband and there would be a position open in one month. My experience in healthcare met the qualifications for the position.


Statue of St .Angela Merici in the Church of St. Angela in Desenzano, Italy; designed by Benedetto Pietrogrande and sculpted by Peter Kostner, 1990

My second interview was with the manager, the nurse I would potentially be working with (who had just been hired earlier in the year), and a nurse who had been with the program for several years. I learned later that my response to the question about dealing with a difficult situation in my life was significant in their decision to hire me. I told them about a time when I struggled finding voice in my community and how my friends helped me to understand that what I had to say was valuable. The manager said that my response helped my future coworkers know that I understood what many people living in poverty face each day -- that either they did not comprehend how advocate for themselves or their voices weren't listened to by healthcare and social service providers. Being a healthcare advocate for my clients was a major part of my ministry.


If I hadn't listened to Mary and taken the risk to work in an area totally unknown to me and people with whom I was unfamiliar, I would not have had the most rewarding 14 years of my nursing ministry. The people I ministered to enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to live out my dream of serving the people who were falling between the cracks in the healthcare and social service systems in Cincinnati.


 

Refection by Sr. Lawrence Sickman, Ursulines of Brown County


“In these pestilential times, you will find no other recourse than at the feet of Jesus Christ”

7th Counsel of St. Angela Merici


St. Angela Merici, Anonymous Painting, 17th Century

Thinking about the Cross conjures thoughts for reflection:


C is for remembering to be Compassionate and Caring.


R reminds us to be Respectful of others and Repentant of our shortcomings.


O says be Open to God’s word with our eyes and heart - to be Other oriented.


S means to Suffer in silence and Sacrifice for others


S with Sensitivity to the needs of others Serving them with a sense of peaceful Serenity.








The Ursulines of Brown County are women of faith, celibate witnesses who demonstrate Christ-centered responsiveness by presence in daily ministry.

 

They strive to strengthen their experience of corporate spirituality. With creativity and availability, they empower others and serve as healers as they interact with the chaos of our world.

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