Julia Ledóchowska was born on 17 April 1865 in Loosdorf, Lower Austria. She was the second of seven children born to Anthony (1823-1885) and Josephine Salis-Zizers (1831-1909). In 1874 the family moved to Sankt Pölten, a bigger town between Loosdorf and Vienna. There Julia went to the school of the Loreto Sisters (Institute of the blessed Virgin Mary) and received a humanistic education. In 1883 the family moved to Poland and settled down in Lipnica Murowana near Cracow.
In 1886 Julia entered the Ursuline Order in Cracow taking the religious name of “Sister Mary Ursula of Jesus”. She worked as a teacher and educator in the school guided by the Ursuline sisters. In 1904 she was elected superior of the convent.
In 1907, with the blessing of Pope Pius X and accompanied by two other sisters she went to St Petersburg Russia to take charge of St Catherine’s Polish boarding high school for girls. She learnt Russian and passed the state exam qualifying her to teach French.
The community of the sisters grew and in 1908, the convent in Cracow became an autonomous convent in Petersburg with its own novitiate and Mother Ursula as the superior. In 1910 she established a convent and a boarding house on the Finnish Bay.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 caused the expulsion of Mother Ursula as an Austrian citizen from Russia. She returned to Scandinavia: first to Stockholm in Sweden, later to Alborg in Denmark. Together with the sisters who gradually left the war-affected St Petersburg, Mother Ursula organised a language school for Scandinavian girls as well as a home for the orphans of Polish emigrants in Denmark. At the same time, she actively took part in the life of the local Church and got involved in the activity of the committee established in Switzerland by Henryk Sienkiewicz to bring help to the victims of the war. By giving lectures on Polish history and culture, Mother Ursula sensitised the Scandinavian society to the issue of Poland’s independence.
In 1918 Poland regained its independence. Mother Ursula with the community returned to Poland. In 1920, thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian consul Stolt-Nielsen, a manor house was bought in Pniewy near the city of Poznan. Here they settled down after a pilgrimage lasting several years. The first motherhouse was established.
Soon the community received permission from the Apostolic See to become the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus with the spirituality and mission of St Angela Merici: of evangelising through educational work and of responding to current needs, especially those of the poor. The Congregation quickly developed. New convents and endeavours in Poland were founded, as well as missions at the Eastern Borderland, 1928 in Italy, 1930 in France.
She died in Rome on 29 May 1939. John Paul II beatified her on 20 June 1983 in Poznan and canonised her on 18 May 2003 in Rome. – Catholic Online