The Ursulines of the Eastern Province belong to a branch of Ursulines called the Roman Union of Ursulines.
There are many Ursuline groups throughout the U.S. and in other parts of the world. In 1900 some of those groups joined together at the invitation of Pope Leo XIII to form what he envisioned as a united institute created from smaller, independent Ursuline communities. Their purpose was for sharing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses, in common purpose, practices, and as time went on, personnel, ministries, and structures of governance. Many groups from around the world – predominantly Europe and the U.S. – responded to the invitation. Over time and to the present, the Roman Union expanded to other continents.
The Ursulines of the Roman Union are now located around the world, and they have their central government in Rome. The United States currently has four provinces: Northeast, East, Central, and West.
There are other groups of Ursulines in the U.S. and Canada, such as those in Kentucky, Ohio, Kansas, and New York, as well as Canadian provinces. All the North American Ursulines are in communication through meetings and shared initiatives.
BACKGROUND OF THE ROMAN UNION
To explain the Roman Union, some background enables a long view of its role in contemporary religious life.
After the founding of the Company of St. Ursula in 1535, Angela Merici did not live to see the spread of her Company beyond the city of Brescia in Lombardy, what is now northern Italy. Members lived at home, came together from time to time for spiritual formation and community, and ministered to local needs. But the Company became known for its service, making it a desirable ministry in other dioceses, and members took it to other cities of northern Italy, from there into France, then beyond. New communal living arrangements developed.
As the Company spread, and after the Council of Trent (1545-1563) adaptations and changes were mandated for congregations of women religious, differing from Angela’s original ideas. The Council regulated women religious in the church, and the Company adapted itself; some groups lived in communities serving local apostolates, others became cloistered with obligations and the way of life of monastic religious life. The latter form clearly limited the ministry originally envisioned as serving the diverse needs of the social environment in which it was located, but schools were attached to the monasteries for the education of young girls. The Order of St. Ursula, the Ursulines, spread throughout Europe and beyond, and its chief work became education.
The Ursuline monasteries became known by the city in which they were located: Ursulines of Paris, Ursulines of Lyons, and so on. These groups were governed by the local bishop and had few formal connections with each other. When they sent missionaries to the New World, the new foundations were closely related to their founding monasteries, and gradually they became communities independent of their community of origin, for example, the Quebec Ursulines founded from monasteries in France.
In 1900 for a variety of reasons, Pope Leo XIII offered a plan for joining the various Ursuline groups, for mutual help and the strength of unity. In consolidation greater effectiveness was envisioned. While many local groups, with the approval of the local bishop, joined the new institute, some were prevented and others chose not to join. Later, other unions were formed among national or regional Ursuline groups.
The new group who responded to the call of Leo XIII took the name of the Roman Union of the Order of St. Ursula. Provinces were created along national, cultural, or geographical lines, and the Roman Union spread throughout all the continents. The communities in the Roman Union live according to a common Constitution as an apostolic institute headed by a Prioress General, with its Generalate in Rome.
They have indeed found strength in unity, with a vision that crosses nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities.
The Roman Union can be found in thirty-six countries.
There are 2,268 sisters who are Ursulines of the Roman Union.
Africa: Botswana, Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa
The Americas: Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, United
Asia/Pacifica: Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Great
Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine