St Angela Merici founded the Company of St Ursula (Brescia, Italy in 1535) for the instruction, education and protection of young girls. Not a religious institute, the order drew women who made a vow of chastity. They lived together as a family, a novel arrangement for young women in those days. Ursuline foundations grew in number and continued as convents and congregations with a connection to the founder. Today, there are cloistered nuns (some living in centralized institutes, some not), sisters (living in about 60 religious congregations) and secular Ursulines (most of them living in companies of St Ursula, as in the 16th century).
The Ursulines who came to Québec in 1639 with the blessed MARIE DE L'INCARNATION were enclosed nuns.
The Ursuline Convent in Québec is the oldest educational institution for women in North America. Ursulines are now found throughout French Canada as well as in foundations at Chatham (1860), Prelate (1912), Bruno (1913), Tildonk (1914) and London (the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, 1920).
The first Ursuline Convent was built in 1642. This retrospective view was painted by Joseph Légaré (courtesy Ursuline Convent).
Marie de l'Incarnation
With two Ursulines and Madame de la Peltrie, Marie landed at Québec 1 August 1639 and established a convent in the lower town (courtesy Library and Archives Canada).
MICHEL THÉRIAULT Revised: PETER MEEHAN
M. Reidy, The First Ursuline: The Story of Angela Merici (1961).
Links to Other Sites
A brief chronology of the establishment of Ursuline convents throughout New France (Québec.) Written in 1948 by Sister Mary of Jesus. From the website "Quebec History," by Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College.
From One Prayer to Another
A multimedia website that examines how different religions coexist in Canada. From Radio Canada International.