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May 29

St Ursula Ledochowska in 1907 - May 29

Saint Ursula Ledóchowska


Foundress of Grey Ursulines 

(1865 – 1939)

“Holiness does not demand anything great, beyond the ability of the person. It depends on God’s Love; every daily act can be transformed into an act of love.”

Saint Ursula Ledóchowska

Saint’s Life Story

Her Family Background

Julia was born just after Easter on April 17, 1865 in Loosdorf, Melk, Austria.  Her father was to Count Antoni Halka-Ledóchowski and her mother was his second wife, Countess Josephine Salis-Zizers. She was the fifth child of ten (two of whom died after birth).  Her elder sister was Blessed Mary Theresa Ledóchowska who founded the Missionary Sisters of Saint Peter Claver and is affectionately known as the “Mother of Africa.”  Her brother, Vladimir, served was a priest and was  the twenty-sixth general superior of the worldwide Jesuit community. Her paternal uncle was Cardinal Halka-Ledóchowski who was persecuted and imprisoned for his opposition to the policies of the Prussian  “culture war.”. 

Moved to St. Pölten, Austria

For this reason and for reasons of financial failure, Julia’s father moved the family back to St. Pölten, Austria where he fell ill. Here, Julia and her sister, Maria Theresa, attended a grammar school run by the Sisters of Loreto. Her father died of smallpox in February 1885.  Julia’s uncle Cardinal Ledóchowski assumed responsibility for them.

Took Vows and Became a Nun

On August 18, 1886, Julia entered the novitiate of the Ursulines in Kraków, Poland. In 1887, Julia received the religious habit and was given the religious name of Ursula. On April 28, 1889, Ursula took perpetual vows and was then assigned to educational work, instructing and training young girls. She often spent hours in Eucharistic Adoration. In 1904, Ursula was elected as the Mother Superior of the convent and remained in that position until 1907. In Kraków, Ursula opened a home for female college students – a new concept. 

Off to St. Petersburg, Russia

With a special blessing of Pope Pius X, Ursula went to St. Petersburg, Russia. Here, she worked to build up the Saint Catharine House which was a boarding school for Polish children and adolescents that were living there at the behest of its pastor, Monsignor Konstantin Budkiewicz. Ursula was forced to wear civil clothes since because Roman Catholic institutions were illegal in the Russian Empire. In 1907, Ursula founded an Ursuline convent in St. Petersburg.

Moved to Finland

Once the Russian government oppression to the faith grew, Ursula she moved to the Russian-controlled Finland. In Finland, she translated songs and a catechism for the Finnish fishermen who were Protestants. In in Sortavala, Finland, Ursula founded another Ursuline convent. She also set up a free clinic for ill people as well as for the fishermen and their families. But, her apostolic zeal soon attracted undue attention for the Russians began to monitor her moves and decided that enough was enough.

Expelled to Sweden

Ursula was pressured and persecuted in Finland. Finally, at the beginning of the First World War, she was expelled from Russia as an Austrian citizen. Ursula fled for asylum to neutral Sweden, but was able to keep in contact with her Sisters who had remained in Russia. She encouraged them to persevere.  In her apostolic zeal, Ursula cared especially for the Catholics who lived scattered throughout the diaspora.  For these Catholics, Ursula arranged various opportunities for group retreats and spiritual exercises in common. She also founded a Marian congregation in 1915 and started a monthly Catholic newspaper entitled ‘Solglimtar’, which, with the title changed to ‘Katolsk Kyrkotidning’, is still published in Uppsala.  

Pope Benedict XV appealed to all men of good will, according to their abilities, to come to the aid of the war victims who were in need. So, Ursula responded with a large-scale charitable campaign for her fellow Poles living in exile. Accordingly, she held more than eighty conferences in six different languages in Scandinavia during the war years (1915-1918). At these conferences, Ursula spoke about the culture, literature, and history of the Polish people, as well as about their right to freedom, independence, and national autonomy.

In 1917, Ursula published in Stockholm, Sweden the book ‘Polonica’ in three languages. In the same year, this uncommonly enterprising and dynamic religious woman went to Denmark in order to care for the Polish emigrants in this country. In 1918, she started a school of home economics and an orphanage for the Polish girls in Aalborg, Denmark.


Her Works

  • Ursula was known as a gifted speaker, and often spoke before royalty and other international dignitaries. Ursula wrote the following:
    Constitutions’ and the ‘Directory’  in Pniewy, Poland 1923-1930
  • Meditations for Sisters’, 4 vols. (Pniewy, Poland 1930-1931)
  • The Monthly Retreat’ (Pniewy, Poland 1933);
  • Examination of Conscience for Superiors
  • Beneath the Star of the Sea’ that has been published in Polish, German, French, and Italian editions

Back to Poland

After the end of the war, Ursula returned in 1920 to Poland, which was again free and independent, She intended to rejoin the religious community of her motherhouse in Krakow. Once there, however, Ursula soon noticed that she and the Sisters who had worked abroad with her had distanced themselves, by the very nature of their apostolate during World War I, from the form of community life at the Ursuline convent in Krakow. Her  apostolate was no longer directed so much toward girls from well-to-do families but, rather, primarily toward the impoverished, the infirm elderly, and the children of families in reduced circumstances.

Foundress of Grey Ursulines

Therefore, with the approval of the Pope in Rome in 1923, Ursula Ledochowska and her Sisters separated themselves from the Polish Ursuline order and founded the autonomous branch of the Ursuline Sisters of the Heart of Jesus in Agony (Orsoline del Sacro Cuore di Gesu Agonizzante; called the Grey Ursulines). The Constitution drawn up by Ursula says, “To proclaim Christ and the love of his Heart is the specific task of our Congregation. We accomplish this through all of those activities that have as their goal the propagation and strengthening of the faith, especially through the education and training of children and youth and through service to the poorest and the oppressed among our brethren.”.

Her Death

At the age of seventy-four-year-old, Ursula died on May 29, 1939, in Rome, Italy in her convent at Via del Casaletto due to a carcinoma. At her death, the congregation she foudned already numbered more than a hundred members in thirty-five convents. Today, 800 sisters serve in almost 100 communities in 14 countries on 5 continents: Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Poland, Tanzania, Russia and Ukraine.

Her incorrupt body was translated to the Gray Ursuline motherhouse in Pniewy, Poland in 1989.   At her canonization, Pope John Paul II proclaimed:

 “Mother Ursula Ledóchowska made her life a mission of mercy for the most deprived.   Wherever Providence took her, she found young people in need of instruction and spiritual formation, poor, sick or lonely people, battered by life in various ways, who expected of her understanding and concrete help.   In accordance with her means, she never refused help to anyone.   Her work of mercy will remain engraved forever in the message of holiness, which yesterday became part of the whole Church.”

Born:                   April 17, 1865 in Loosdorf, Melk, Austria

Died:                    May 29, 1939, in Rome, Italy in her convent at Via del Casaletto

Beatified:           June 20, 1983 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:        May 18, 2003 by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day:         May 29

Patron Saint:    Educators; Orphans; Polish Girls



St. Ursula Ledóchowska provides us with an excellent example spending her life educating girls despite opposition from Communists. Saint Ursula reminds us that God does not demand great feats or deeds that are beyond our capabilities. God simply asks that love him and our neighbors with all our heart. So that we can learn to see every action and thought as a means of furthering our dedication to our faith.

How can you integrate your faith more readily into your experiences of the day? As you start your day, think about your today’s events and pray that you include God in every activity of your life today.


St. Ursula Ledóchowska, you spoke out for the Polish peoples rights of freedom and independence. You also responded with responded with a large-scale charitable campaign for her fellow Poles living in exile. May we use your example to continue our unwavering acts of kindness towards those whose do not enjoy freedom and independence in both prayer and with material gifts of charity.

St. Ursula Ledóchowska, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 29 May – St Ursula Ledóchowska (Mother Maria Ursula of Jesus) (1865-1939)

Catholic Online – St. Ursula Ledochowska

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Ursula Ledóchowska

Faith – St. Ursula Ledóchowska (1865-1939) Feast Day: May 29

Faith ND – St. Ursula Ledóchowska

Healing Grace – St. Julia Leochowska Patron Saint of Young Girls

Prayers4Reparation – A Short Biography of Blessed Ursula Ledochowska

RC Spirituality – St. Ursula Ledóchowska

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Ursula Ledóchowska (1865-1939)

The Ledóchowski Family – Saint Urszula Ledóchowska 1865 – 1939

The Sanctuary of Saint Ursula Ledóchowska – Ursula Ledóchowska, Foundress of the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus

Ursulines of the Roman Union – Saint Urszula Ledóchowska

Vatican – M. Orsola (Giulia) Ledóchowska (1865-1939)

Wikipedia – Syra of Troyes

Video Link