I was invited to speak at some parish Masses this past weekend as part of World Day of Consecrated Life. I shared about my own call to religious life, as well as some of the Ursuline story. It’s always nice to have people come up afterward and say that they know a bit of our history. Often it’s the New Orleans chapter they’ve heard.
The story is well known. In 1727, Mother Marie Tranchepain and eleven other Ursulines traveled from France to New Orleans. What followed includes the first convent, first free school, first classes for female African-American slaves, free women of color and Native Americans, first female pharmacist, first woman to contribute a book of literary merit, and first retreat center for ladies in what is now the USA.
Such service and risk-taking continues to this day. One example is all students at Ursuline Academy in New Orleans doing service on the feast of St Angela, at shelters, food banks, homes for the elderly, and rebuild centers. In the afternoon they celebrate liturgy, bring together their experiences, and reflect more on the reason for their service. That is all core to being a bearer of the charism of St. Angela. It also roots these young women in the remarkable tradition that is theirs as part of a school full of firsts.