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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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A religious order founded at Brescia by Angela Merici (1470-1540) in November 1535, primarily for the education of girls and the care of the sick and needy. It was approved in 1544 by Paul III., and in 1572 Gregory XIII., at the instance of Charles Borromeo, declared it a religious order under the rule of St Augustine. In the following century it was powerfully encouraged and supported by St Francis of Sales. In most cases, especially in France, the sisters adopted enclosure and took solemn vows; they were called the "religious" Ursulines as distinct from the "congregated" Ursulines, who preferred to follow the original plan. There were Ursulines in Canada in 1639, who taught the catechism to Indian children, and subsequently helped to preserve a religious spirit among the French population and to humanize the Indians and half-breeds. Towards the beginning of the 18th century, the period of its greatest prosperity, the order embraced some 20 congregations, with 350 convents and from 15,000 to 20,000 nuns. The members wear a black dress bound by a leathern girdle, a black sleeveless cloak, and a close-fitting head-dress with a white veil and a longer black veil. Their patron is the St Ursula mentioned above. The founder was beatified by Clement VIII. in 1768 and canonized as St Agnes of Brescia by Pius VII. in 1807. The Irish Ursulines were established at Cork in 1771 by Miss Nano Nagle. The Ursulines do not increase now as rapidly as they did, congregations taking simple vows like the Sisters of Mercy being apparently more adapted to modern needs.

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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Ursulines'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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