From Austria to Russia

Born Julia Ledóchowska in Austria in 1865, St Ursula entered the Ursuline novitiate in Kraków aged 21. The Ursulines are committed to educating girls and caring for the sick and the poor; Ursula devoted herself to these tasks, and amid the turmoil of the 20th century took the congregation in new directions.

Known for her piety – she would spend hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament – Ursula set up Kraków’s first residence for female university students. In 1907, by which time she was superior of the convent, she learnt Russian and went to St Petersburg to run a boarding school.

The community expanded in Russia, adding a convent and a boarding house, but in 1914, with the outbreak of war, Ursula was expelled.

Apostolate and holiness

She ended up founding a new congregation, known as the Grey Ursulines, who are present today in 11 countries.

As well as her labours in education, Ursula carried out an apostolate of the written word. Before Russia threw her out, she had translated songs and a catechism for the Protestant fishermen of Russia-controlled Finland. Once she was forced to move to Sweden, she set up a Catholic newspaper there.

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