The Story of our Charism
On the Feast of the presentation of the Lord, February 2, 1888, a band of twelve maidens, responding to the divine call to dedicate themselves to his service, were presented to the Lord by the Pastor of the Rosario Cathedral, Mangalore, Fr Urban Stein SJ. Their presentation was the expression of their total commitment to God to spend their lives as messengers of his Word to the people in parishes and villages. The seed thus planted in the temple of the Lord was to grow into the plant and even tree of the Ursuline Franciscan family of Mangalore.
Company of St Ursula
In the 16th century the Holy Spirit bestowed on a young Franciscan Tertiary, Angela Merici of Brescia, Italy, the special charism of dedicating herself and her companions to the active apostolate of the Church. Thus in 1535 Angela founded the first Congregation of women consecrated to the Lord for the apostolic life in the Church. They were called the Company of St Ursula’. These women lived in their own homes while committing themselves to the service of the local Church.
Fr Urban Stein wanted a similar association of dedicated women in Mangalore for the pastoral needs of the local Church. He discerned the charism of the Spirit in those young women who offered themselves to help him in his pastoral ministry, gave them the Forma Vitae namely the Rule and Form of Life of the Company of St Ursula founded by St Angela Merici, and on the great day of Easter 1887, the pious Association of St Ursula was born in Mangalore
Catechist Sisters of St Ursula
The Association of St Ursula soon spread, gathering members from the other parishes of Mangalore town as well as from Karwar. The Lord blessed their efforts in his vineyard they increased in number and the fruits of their apostolic activities were evident in the renewed parish life of the Diocese. This realization inspired Mother Rose Saldanha and Mother Agnes Mathias to appeal to the Bishop of Mangalore, Rt Rev Victor R Fernandes, to organize them into a full- fledged religious congregation. On May 13, 1934 the Company of St Ursula received the Canonical Approval from the Holy See and was erected as a religious congregation of the ‘Catechist Sisters of St Ursula’.
The Ursuline Franciscans
While the congregation was slowly growing in strength and number, taking up apostolic ministries in parishes and even schools, the members grappled with the paradox and tension involved in the process of growth: on the one hand there was the question of adaptation to the conditions and needs of the Church and the world; and on the other hand there was the problem of fidelity to the original charism, by returning to and reclaiming the primitive inspiration contained in the ‘spirit and aims’ of St Angela.
In the genuine spirit of St Angela, who had been a Franciscan tertiary and had imbibed the apostolic and missionary spirit of the ‘Poverello of Assisi’, the Ursulines of Mangalore in their effort to realize their identity and to renew their religious life, expressed their desire to be incorporated into the Franciscan family. Through the mediation of Fr Pacificus OFM Cap., a ‘Rescript of Affiliation’ was obtained on August 16, 1955 from the Minister General of the Capuchin Friars of Milan. The Constitutions were re-written in the spirit and pattern of the Franciscan Rule and the Congregation came to be called ‘the Ursuline Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis of Assisi’ – in brief the Ursuline Franciscans.