The Company of St Ursula, also known as the Secular Institute of St Angela Merici, or Secular Ursulines, was founded by St Angela Merici in Brescia, Northern Italy, in 1535. We are an Institute of Consecrated Life within the Catholic Church for lay, single, Catholic women who feel called to a deeper and exclusive relationship with Christ bringing the Gospel to bear on every aspect of living. We are contemplative and yet immersed in our world.
St Angela held up a number of saintly women as encouragement for her daughters. Indeed, the frescoes adorning one of the first meeting rooms for her young Company were exclusively of women saints. However, it was St Ursula, whom St Angela chose as the patroness of the Company of women under her care. In doing so, St Angela sought protection and guidance for the young women through the interecession of St Ursula.
The Company of St Ursula, founded by St Angela Merici in 1535, was the forerunner of contemporary Secular Institutes. After the death of St Angela, and in the wake of the reforms set in motion by the Council of Trent, the original "secular" Ursulines were encouraged to take up the work of catechetics. Some were encouraged to live together. Slowly but surely the way of life of many of the "secular" Ursulines gave way to that of "religious" Ursulines.
Secular Institutes are a form of Consecrated Life within the Catholic Church for single, lay Catholics. It is Consecrated Life because it engages the totality of one's self, one's heart, whereby members live a life-long consecration to God in poverty, chastity and obedience.