Ursuline Sisters A.H.J.
Julia Ursula Ledóchowska
Foundress of the Congregation of Ursuline Sisters of Agonizing Heart of Jesus
Julia is born in Loosdorf, in Lower Austria, as the second of the seven children of Antoni and Josephine Salis-Zizers.
The Ledóchowski Family moves to Lipnica Murowana, near Cracow in Poland.
Julia enters the Ursuline Order in Cracow, known for its deep spirituality, as well as for teaching and educating girls both from local communities and from far-away places in Galicia and Russia.
With the blessing of Pius X, she goes to Petersburg accompanied by two sisters - to administer St. Catherine's boarding high school for girls.
A growing community of the sisters living the religious life in secrecy becomes an autonomous convent in Petersburg with Mother Ursula as its superior. Future Ursulines prepare for religious life in an underground novitiate.
To realize Mother Ursula's ideological ideas, a convent and a boarding high school for girls are established on Finnish Bay.
The outbreak of the war of 1914 causes Mother Ursula's exile from Russia. She stops over in Scandinavia - first in Stockholm and next in Denmark. Gradually she transfers here the sisters from war-affected Petersburg in order to organize with them a school for Scandinavian girls.
In addition, she devotes her time to the local Church and community, and gets involved in the activities of the committee established in Switzerland by Henryk Sienkiewicz to give help to the victims of the War.
The Petersburg Ursuline Community returns to independent Poland and settles in Pniewy near Poznań. It soon receives permission from the Apostolic See to be transformed into the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus (Grey Ursulines).
From an old root sprouts a new branch. It is to live according to the Ursuline spirituality and its tradition of being involved in education, as a privileged instrument of evangelization, as well as seeking various ways of responding to current needs, especially those of the poor. The Congregation quickly develops under Mother Ursula's direction. New convents and endeavours in Poland, as well as missions at the Eastern Borderland, are established. New houses are also being opened in Italy in 1928 and in France in 1930, where the sisters accompany young women going to France to earn their living.
Mother Ursula tells the sisters to love God above all, and to live a life of simplicity, humility, self-sacrifice and creativity in serving others, especially children and youth. She regards smiling, serenity and kindness as the most credible witness of being united with Christ and the most influential means used in evangelization and education. She teaches that holiness is accessible to everyone and is based on deep love of God and others, shown in performance of everyday duties.
She travels much visiting the various communities of the order and accepting new requests for the work of the sisters. She holds in high regard the role of organizations which are helpful in catechesis and religious education. Among others, she transfers to Poland the Eucharistic Crusaders (known today as the Eucharistic Movement of Youth). She publishes magazines for children and youth, herself submitting some of the articles. Among all her duties she finds time to write books for children. She actively participates in the religious, cultural and social life of the country and receives high awards from the State.
After her death in Rome on May 29, 1939, those who knew her said, "A saint has passed away!"
On June 20, John Paul II beatifies Mother Ursula in Poznan. This was the first beatification on Polish soil.
Bl.Ursula's incorrupt body is transferred from Rome to Pniewy and laid in the chapel at the Motherhouse.
A decree on the confirmation of a miracle through the intercession of Blessed Ursula closes the Canonization Process.
The sisters want to follow a path of evangelical radicalism and fraternal service, especially to the most needy through:
- witness of their own lives and sisterly communion in the community;
- involvement in catechesis, education, teaching , in charitable and missionary work.
At present the Congregation consists of over 900 sisters in 100 communities in 12 countries.
SPIRITUALITY... and... MISSION