Angela Merici selected an early Christian martyr as the patron saint of her new “company of women” in 1535. Saint Ursula was known as a leader of women companions, all martyred at Cologne, Germany, around 300 A.D.
Dramatic legends and artworks had embellished their story:
Ursula was said to have been a British princess who committed herself to Christ by a promise of virginity. As an alternative to a forced marriage, she captained a fleet of 11,000 young women on a pilgrimage to Rome. Inspired by her example, they too committed themselves to Christ. Their vibrant faith was such a powerful witness that many people turned to Christianity, and its enemies plotted against the companions. As a result, on their return journey they were ambushed by troops at Cologne and martyred.
When the commander would have forced Ursula into marriage and paganism, she refused to abandon Christ and was shot with an arrow.
These women are all martyrs for their faith.
Angela Merici chose a model of faith, courage, loyalty, complete commitment to Christ, Christian witness, and leadership among women.
Continue courageously the task you have begun.
– Angela Merici