History of the Ursulines of the Roman Union (In Brief)

November 25th, 1535, 28 young women attended Mass with Angela Merici at the Church of Saint Afra in Brescia in northern Italy. At Mass that day, each one offered herself personally to God by receiving Holy Communion, sacrament of union with God and others, then they went back to Angela's accommodation to register in a small book with deep feeling, testified that the Order of Saint Ursula is Ursuline members which has been born.

The first rule which Mother Angela told Cossano to write did not indicate the position of Mother General which was a position in which she implicitly occupied. That means Ursuline House was indeed a union. Two years later, when the Order had a general meeting, it saw the necessity of the Mother General position. Together, the members chose "Mother, Sister Angela" (Madre Zuer Angelz) as General. Later years we found in the minutes of the meeting of the Order that Saint Angela herself had tried to develop a form of government administration which in every meeting there was a mention of Mother General. Angela herself, before her death, chose Countess Lucrezia di Lodrone as her replacement. It emphasized that Ursulines were one with Mother General and her government as leaders.

The Ursuline Order had more members. Later Saint Charles Boromeo had gathered members into categories, residing in their home or monastery but it was still a secular group, some religious. When many monasteries were formed in different regions spreading more in France, each place began to be independent.

The year 1776 appeared that the history of the Order of St. Ursula was published in Paris. There was one chapter that proved that Lay Ursuline or Ursulines who lived in houses in groups or without cloister, were the daughters of a single Mother; Saint Angela Merici of Brescia. Sisters from homes and monasteries became interested in the news about the Ursuline Order.

The year 1789 was a revolution in France, religious persecution. The Ursuline Order was impacted like the other Religious Order because the Church was still in the state of the Church. Many monasteries were seized. Religious had to change their uniforms to lay people in order to teach in schools. Some groups went to set up monasteries in Belgium, England, America. In Italy there was also persecution such as Via Victoria in Rome was partially confiscated. In November 1873 the danger was shown to concentration, the local superior was ordered that the government has issued a warrant to seize the monastery. The officer raided the monastery to investigate the items, set out one part as a music college.

The other part left for the religious to stay as a monastery and a school accepting students to study in the cloister. A woman who wished to enter a monastery must enter in Blois, France. This was because Blois was a monastery known to the Roman Ursulines. Mother St. Julian Aubry; Superior and Mother Aurely: Assistant already had communicated by letters. There were also trips to Rome when needed. In the thoughts and desires of Ursulines at various places, it was said that Ursulines, daughters of St. Angela, should be united into an Institutions as a Union. This was because the charism of Saint Angela was the ideal of every Ursuline home, that is, “Let all your works have their root in this twofold charity Testament ; First Legacy.” But this unity had not been officially agreed. Each house that was established was independent. And God had called many young women to join the Ursulines. Each house depended on the diocesan bishop. But the Bishop had no right to change Ursuline's major discipline because the Order had the main verses of the Pope (Ponfifical Bulls). The Bishop had the right to change matters that were not so important, such as regulations, traditions and customs, established a schedule for each day, certified of membership uniform. The Bishop was the one who granted permission to receive or reject Postulants and Novices. He would be the chairman of voting on receiving new members.

When Mother St. Julian from Blois was a relief aid to the Calvi and the Community in Rome on the shortage of members to operate the work of the Order, lack of finance to operate and living expenses, problems with the government taking over some monasteries, Diocesan Bishop advocated for Blois-Rome-Calvi to be unified as Union suggested by Cardinal Stolli to the Pope which was a success. This news spread to Ursuline Monastery in France. There was one place that wrote a letter to say that Mother St. Julian assumed the position of Mother General which was not true. So Cardinal Stolli held a formal election for Mother St. Julian, the Archbishop of Blois strongly agreed but Mother herself didn't want this position at all.

When the union was born, the monasteries became buzzing, with those who did not want Mother St. Julian to be the head of the union, writing along to the monasteries that belonged to the Union which also there were some monasteries that wanted a Union. Cardinal Stolli decided to recommend Mother St. Julian to write to the monasteries in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Indonesia, etc., inviting them to meet in Rome as a general assembly. Blois - Rome – Calvi, and before attending the meeting, it was proposed to seek approval from the Bishop of the diocese.
It was a common item that some Bishops disagreed, this was for fear that if a monastery in the diocese was dependent on the Union, that monastery would not be able to do whatever he asked for. The Bishops of Rome and Calvi emphasized that It was also the intention of the Pope that the Ursulines were united into a Union.

Finally, on November 15th, 1900, the Superiors of 56 monasteries, together with 71 representatives, met in Villa Maria's little chapel. Father Lemius preached with profound expressions that delved into the soul where the Spirit of God dwelled. Therefore, the work that everyone was doing was a mission that God desired, otherwise, it would not have been successful. For being able to come up to this, there was a sign of the cross that difficulty was already present, let everyone think about it.

The next day, November 16th, 1900, the General Assembly took place with Cardinal Stoli celebrating Mass. Then the Superiors and their representatives walked in pairs to the General Assembly. The Cardinals explained about the Union and distributed the Constitutions which the Pope had already approved for everyone to read and meditate in the eyes of the Lord. Finally, on November 28th, 1900, Bishop Battandier was present at the meeting and announced that the Pope had officially recognized the Union (Canonical union), comprised of 63 monasteries requesting to be incorporated into the Union
On July 17th, 1903, Pope Leo the 13th signed the decree Anno 1899 certifying that the recognition of the union in words had now been given written approval and the Acts issued by Mother General and her Councilors were of complete value.

The Roman Union consists of 26 Provinces with approximately 2,100 members in 32 countries of the world, in which Thailand is also a part. There are also thousands of Ursulines in other groups who recognize Saint Angela as their founder.

Edited from
Ursuline book of the Roman Union, 1985
Commemorative book 7 cycle 84 years of Mother Theodore Hanenfeld December 23rd, 2006