Ursuline Catholic Ethos
The late Pope John Paul II stated: “The reason for the existence of the Catholic School, is the quality of religious instruction integrated into the life of the pupils.” The Catholic Christian ethos of Brescia House Ursuline Convent School depends basically and entirely on its foundation of faith in Christ, his teaching and salvation.
Our ethos is an inspiring heritage derived from St Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Order.
Angela Merici was born during the Renaissance (about 1474) in Italy. Captivated by Christ's love, generously open to the needs of others and a woman of prayer, she was sensitive to the critical social and spiritual needs of her times. She and her first companions consecrated themselves and their entire lives to God and his work. Angela's writings have given us the heritage of profoundly Christian principles of education that has been developed and enriched in Ursuline schools worldwide for the past four centuries and continues to be the living tradition of this richly endowed educational network. The foundresses, Ursuline Sisters, who have poured their energies and expertise into developing Brescia House School, shared and continue to share with Ursuline Sisters and with their lay co-workers here and throughout the world, the conviction that the educational vision of Angela Merici is an inspiring heritage, a living and proven model that answers the deepest needs of our times.
Three characteristics of Angela's thinking stand out for us in her writings:
- Strength in Unity,
- Relationships based on Love and Charity. To Angela, caring means a lively desire and pro-active self-commitment to see each person, even the apparently unpromising, blossom and be fulfilled according to her calling in every dimension of her being. This implies nurturing each person through the phases of growth, guiding her heart to focus on essentials so that she may become, in all her unique beauty, an independent human being capable of love and of openness to others and with the will to promote selflessly justice, peace and harmony in today's world.
St Angela prized above all relationships based on love and charity, on this she wrote:
“You will achieve more with kindness and gentleness than with harshness and sharp rebukes. Charity, which directs everything to the honour of God and the good of souls, teaches discretion. The model of genuine love and charity, as of authentic caring for others and of unity of heart and will, is drawn from God himself who loved us all first.”
Unity manifests itself in the quality of the network of colleagueship we form with one another, in our manner of relating to one another in everyday living, in maintaining occasions for rejoicing and celebrating together. Prayer and worship together lie at the heart of genuine unity. This unity and harmony is not focused inward in any exclusive way but, on the contrary, creates the strength to reach out to the people of our area and beyond, especially the materially poor and those in any way needy and underprivileged, including all in a broad vision of and commitment to the common good.
“LOVE IS STRONG AS DEATH; THE FLASH OF IT IS A FLASH OF FIRE, A FLAME OF THE LORD HIMSELF”
Song of Songs
Each time that Angela Merici visited the church of San Francesco in her hometown of Brescia, Italy, she would pause before the great masterpiece depicting St Ursula and her companions, virgins and martyrs, which hung in the church. It had been painted by Morello, a contemporary of Angela.
“Great St Ursula, pray for me that the Lord may show me what I must do for his love”
From the “Testament of St Angela”. This she would pray repeatedly.
When Angela founded her group of dedicated women in 1535, she chose Ursula for their patron saint – Ursula, a young woman whose love for God was stronger than death was placed by Angela before her sisters as a model and a challenge of unstinting and faithful service of God and his people. And so the “Company of St Ursula” later “The Ursulines” set out on their long pilgrimage of love through history.
Who was this young woman who so inspired Angela and whose name has been made so widely known throughout the world by thousands upon thousands of Ursulines, their collaborators and their pupils?
The full historical facts about Ursula have been lost in the mists of time and history. However, the legend of Princess Ursula and her eleven thousand companions, thought to be a product of popular devotion and lively imagination, contains a kernel of truth. Archaeologists and historians are satisfied that a group of virgins as far back as the third century were indeed martyred at Cologne, Germany, thus offering their radiant witness of faith in and love of Christ. A basilica was certainly built in their honour at an early date on the very spot where the church of St Ursula stands today.
According to the legend, Ursula, a beautiful Christian British princess, who was betrothed to a pagan Frankish prince, Aetherius, resolved to make a pilgrimage to Rome before her marriage. She arrived in Rome with her attendants where she met the Pope who decided to accompany her on part of her journey. Sailing down the Rhine, Ursula’s boats stopped at the city of Mainz where she was met by Aetherius who was forthwith baptised by the Bishop of Mainz. Arriving at Cologne, Ursula and her companions were killed by the Huns, a tribe of fierce warriors who had invaded that region.
In all the various forms of the legend, Ursula is said to have had an astonishing number of 11 000 virgin companions, all of whom where martyred with her. Historians now say that this number was probably due to an early misreading of a fifth century stone found in the church of St Ursula and inscribed in Latin with the words “eleven virgin martyrs”.
However, looking back from our standpoint at the beginning of the third millennium, it is not difficult to see in the “11 000 companions” the countless host of Ursuline sisters, their collaborators and the children they have educated who, down through the centuries since St Angela Merici founded her Company, have claimed St Ursula of Cologne as their model and helper.
St Ursula, protect our future.
Brescia House School follows the guidelines set out by the Catholic Institute of Education in the CORD and Lifebound syllabi and the liturgical calendar directs the planning of lessons, which each grade receives three times weekly.
Brescia House School also offers a programme to lead pupils in grade 4 to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and of Holy Communion and in grade 11 to Confirmation.
The Mass is central to the faith-life of the School community and pupils attend Mass weekly in the primary school, monthly in the secondary school and feast days and special holy days of obligation.
Brescia House School also encourages full participation in Parish events: at the Stations of the Cross, at Easter and Advent services and through membership of Alpha, the Youth group and St Vincent de Paul Society.
Prayer is encouraged from grade R to grade 12, at the beginning and end of the school day, during daily religion lessons, with grace at meal times, at the Angelus noon bell, and to the Guardian Angels and Mary, the Mother of Christ.
Annual retreats for Grades 4 - 12 are a welcome respite from school commitments and afford the girls the opportunity of time out for spiritual input, introspection, praise and worship in different environments.
The Grade 7's and 11's make an annual pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Christ the King or to Regina Mundi to join fellow pupils from Catholic schools in the Diocese to celebrate a vibrant multicultural Mass and to interact with one another.