History of Ursuline Academy
The Founding of the Order of St. Ursula
The mission of Ursuline Academy is rooted in the vision and charism of St. Angela Merici, a woman truly unique for her time.
In the mid-sixteenth century, God sent a vision to a devout and willing woman of faith as she returned from a long pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Though we may never know what message St. Angela Merici received from God, it was in good time and with clear vision that she established a small Company of women who made every effort to provide education and guidance to young women. During those times, education for women was generally reserved for wealthy classes or nuns, and Angela recognized that to foster young women in mind and faith was to acknowledge her call from God.
Active and devoted lay persons found her an inspiring leader, deeply faithful to the Church, and filled by the Spirit with a confidence in women's own capability. Angela read the "signs of the times" and carried forth a mission that would honor education in all things, for women of all circumstances. She created the Ursuline Order and made it her life's mission to serve those seeking spiritual and educational guidance. Her vision for young women was expressed through her life's work, and is confirmed by the present Ursuline Constitutions:
"Our Ursuline tradition of education offers a Christian vision of the person and the world; enables young women to view their culture in the light of faith and to be a gospel leaven, that is, to be leaders actively engaged in the concerts of their own 'marketplace,' creatively involving themselves in the restructuring of a more just society."
St. Angela Merici created the Ursuline order to serve as a beacon of hope for young women, and in turn set fire to a mission that continues to bring light to students around the world. True to Angela's spirit, the order retains its devotion to the vision and principles of educational excellence while honoring innovation and exercising flexibility to meet the needs of changing times. As opportunities for young women continue to multiply, it is our responsibility to preserve the Ursuline mission by meeting the advancements and challenges of tomorrow with enthusiasm.
Long ago, Angela asked her Company "to take great care that the good directions given you are observed in earnest" and in the same breath added, "If, with change of times and circumstances, it becomes necessary to make fresh rules or to alter anything, do it with prudence, after taking good advice." -- Last Legacy
The legacy of St. Angela Merici serves as a strong foundation upon which we continue to build. It is with confidence in our legacy that we continue to advance the mission of Ursuline Academy.
Background of Ursuline Academy
Ursuline Academy is an independent, Catholic, college preparatory school for young women. The Academy is owned and operated by the Ursuline Sisters and inspired by the gospel challenges in the spirit of St. Angela Merici, the founder of the Ursuline Order.
While the Ursuline Order dates back to its original foundation in 1535, its contribution to the greater Boston community began during the tumultuous times of the early nineteenth century when anti-Catholic feeling was at a high point. In late 1819, an Ursuline School opened its doors in Charlestown to 280 pupils. In 1834, the school had blossomed into one of the area's leading education-centers, serving Catholics and Protestants alike. That year, bigotry led a mob to reduce to ashes years of planning, building, and hope. The Ursuline Sisters were forced to leave the Boston area.
In 1946, at the invitation of then-Archbishop Richard Cushing, a group of the same Order returned to Boston to open an academy on Arlington Street to 45 students. But within ten years the student body at the Academy had expanded, and a search for larger quarters began.
In 1957, The Ursuline Order acquired a twenty-eight acre estate in Dedham, Massachusetts; a site which has since been continually upgraded and further developed. Since the official opening of the school over 35 years ago, each decade has been marked by progress and challenge. With fewer Ursuline Sisters involved today in the educational ministry, the Academy's nearly 400 students presently are served with the same dedication and commitment by a faculty of mostly lay members, several of whom are alumnae or parents of alumnae of the Academy.
Since 1947 when the first class graduated from the school on Arlington Street in Boston, Ursuline Academy has embodied the mission and vision of the Ursuline Order and the inspiration of St. Angela Merici. The dawning of this new century finds the Ursuline Sisters and Ursuline Academy working as effectively as ever toward the same mission envisioned by St. Angela five hundred years ago - educational opportunity for young women. As always, Ursuline Academy faces the ongoing challenge of keeping up with modern educational expectations by providing a wider range of academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs. Its ability to adapt to changing times, combined with the many blessings of a devoted faculty, talented students and concerned supporters, accounts for the remarkable staying power and consistent effectiveness of Ursuline Academy.