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.