Our Verona boasts that it was among the first the Italian towns to welcome the Company of Saint Ursula – Daughters of Saint Angela Merici. St. Charles Borromeo was often a guest of Cardinal Agostino Valier, who, in 1587, affirmed: «Episcopatus mei tempore non semel Cardinalis Amplissimus in sede episcopalis Ecclesie Veronensis divertit».
During one of those visits, in 1580 to be precise, Saint Charles established the Company of Saint Ursula in Verona. However it is likely that a great bishop, Gianmatteo Giberti (1524-1543), had already thought about a group of Saint Angela’s Ursulines in Verona.
The first mother to govern the Company was Countess Lucrezia da Sacco. In 1587 Countess Cassandra Sagramoso left one thousand ducats in order to buy a house as the Company’s property. Later, another more suitable house was bought in the Piazza Cittadella.
During the upheaval of the Napoleonic years, the Company was dissolved. However, it soon came back to life, again on the banks of the Adige River, and again flourished in collaboration with Father Zefirino Agostini, the parish priest of Sts. Nazaro and Celso.
In order to promote the Christian formation of many poor and abandoned young girls, in 1852 Father Agostini gathered around himself a group of generous young women to devote themselves to this great good work. He named them «sorelle devote di Sant’Angela Merici». They had a house where they held a school for elementary education and needlework.
After some years, some of the sisters residing in that house wished to adopt their own rule of life and to live in a community. On November 28, 1860, Bishop Benedetto Riccabona approved their regulations and encouraged them to observe it. So the Orsoline di vita comune [Ursulines of common life] arose, a new branch of the old tree stump.
For some years these members maintained a mutual relationship with the sisters living outside, carrying out their common activities. Eventually the relations between the two groups tended to slacken. While the outside Ursulines lived the Rule of Saint Angela and dedicated themselves to the development of her work according to their secular character, the Ursulines inside the house tried to form a religious community governed by specific statutes. Thus in 1902 the two groups became independent and each of them followed its own path traced for them by by divine Providence.
By his decree of January 13, 1904, Cardinal Bishop Luigi di Canosa sanctioned that separation and regulated the relations between the Company of the Ursulines, which now included only the Daughters outside, and the new Institute of the Ursulines inside.
In the following years, marked by the two great world wars, the Company blossomed marvalously, and the Daughters of Saint Angela worked, humbly and generously, in many parishes of the town and province in the service of families, youth and of many people in suffering and poverty. Many of them worked closely with priests, serving in the rectory and in the community.
In 1958, the Company of Verona joined the other Italian Companies, in a Federation to establish the Secular Institute of Saint Angela Merici, Company of St. Ursula, accepting the experimental Constitutions for seven years.
In the light of the Second Vatican Council, the Company of Verona (like those of Brescia and Mantua) took a fresh look at its identity within the renewed ecclesiastical context. The members felt the need to live and work according to the original idea of Angela Merici, free from large structures, in order to be immediately available to the requests of their own dioceses. Supported by Bishop Giuseppe Carraro, they sought to return to the observance of the Rule of Saint Angela and to the tradition before 1958.
On August 21, 1971, Pope Paul VI granted to the Company of Saint Angela of Verona, together with the Companies of Brescia and Mantua, «to reestablish the observance of the canonical form» in the Company, the one which was effective before 1958. Today
Angela did not recommend any specific apostolate to her Company. She knew that from its Trinitarian ideal focused on Christ comes that universal service which reaches all brothers and sisters their many material, moral and religious needs. Therefore the daughter of Saint Angela is open and mindful of the needs of her brothers and sisters, of the call of the Church and – in simplicity, silence and sacrifice – is able to give herself to others. Contemplation and action: here are the two elements which characterize the great Merician charism. It expresses itself on the streets of the world, in the most diverse environments, like spiritual and human yeast giving witness to the Word of God and to charity. The Company of Saint Angela has continued throughout the centuries until now, and «from its tree stump many shoots have sprung up».
At the end of 2010 we were invited to Mali by Bishop Georges Fonghoro of Mopti.
We have sowed a seed!