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 and a woman truly unique for her time.
St. Angela's Vision
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 to be an inspiring leader who was deeply faithful to the Church and filled by the Holy 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.
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 Early Years in Boston
While the Ursuline Order dates back to its original founding in 1535, its contribution to the Greater Boston community began during the tumultuous times of the early 19th 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 years of planning, building and hope to ashes and the Ursuline Sisters were forced to leave the Boston area.
Ursuline Academy, 12 Arlington Street, Boston
In 1946, at the invitation of then-Archbishop Richard Cushing, a group of Ursuline Sisters returned to Boston to open Ursuline Academy on Arlington Street to 45 students. Within 10 years the student body at the Academy had expanded, and a search for larger quarters began.
The Move to Dedham
In 1957, The Ursuline Order acquired a 28-acre estate in Dedham, Massachusetts; a site which has since been continually upgraded and further developed. Since the official opening of the school over 60 years ago, each decade has been marked by progress and challenge. Though there are fewer Ursuline Sisters involved today in the educational ministry, the Academy's 400 students are served with the same dedication and commitment by a faculty of mostly lay members, several of whom are alumnae or parents of alumnae.
Since the first class graduated from the school on Arlington Street in Boston in 1947, Ursuline Academy has embodied the mission and vision of the Ursuline Order and the inspiration of St. Angela Merici. Today, the Ursuline Sisters and Ursuline Academy community are 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 committed supporters, accounts for the remarkable staying power and consistent effectiveness of Ursuline Academy.