Birthday of Our Founder, Father John Lambertz
February 8th is the Birthday of our Congregation’s Founder, Father John Lambertz. As a parish priest in Tildonk, Belgium, he felt great compassion for impoverished children living in war-torn Belgium in the aftermath of the French Revolution. In 1818, he gathered a group of spiritual and caring women to teach and care for the children, the first Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. We Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk U.S. Province trace our roots back to Belgium, and we are blessed to be part of our international congregation. Father Lambertz’ life is the story of a call to act as God’s worker, and of great compassion to those in need around him.
He was inspired by the life and charism of St. Angela Merici, who had founded the Ursuline Order three centuries earlier. Fr. John Lambertz is depicted in the image above praying to Our Lady. The stained glass window is in the Tildonk Church in Belgium.
John was born during the time of the French Revolution, which began in France in 1789. It had serious consequences for religious men and women and for the Church in Belgium and in the Netherlands. Many churches were closed, most of the convents were plundered and destroyed, and religious and priests were persecuted. He was born in Hoogstraeten, Belgium on February 8th, 1785. The eighth of nine children. During his childhood, he experienced the effects of the French Revolution, such as people attending Mass secretly.
At 24 years of age he was engaged to a young lady. Soon John’s fiancée changed her mind and made up her mind to enter a convent after she felt a call from God. John Lambertz entered the seminary in Malines on May 25, 1810, at the age of twenty-five. John was noted for his good temper, great kindness, self forgetfulness and spirit of prayer. He spent extra time allowed for walks and relaxation in the college chapel, where before the Blessed Sacrament, he found refreshment and rest.
In March 1812 the young priest was assigned to the parish in Tildonk, a small village north east of Brussels. Tildonk lies close to the beautiful estate of Wespelaer. Its parish church dates from the fifteenth century. It was damaged by fire in 1630 and was restored to the taste of the period, a combination of Gothic and Renaissance. Lambertz bought a beautiful carved oak pulpit for a franc and set it up in his church.
Lambertz spent hours before the Tabernacle. Our Blessed Lady was still his mother and her rosary was still a power.
He was kind to those placed in his care; he would ignore any hostility. The young curate saw a changed Tildonk in a few years.
On Sundays the Church was filled; The people followed his sermons and instructions. Parishioners came to Mass every day and received the sacraments.
In September 1815 Curate Lambertz was canonically installed as the pastor of the Tildonk Church, St. John the Baptist Church in Tildonk.The church was filled for the ceremony.
The one fixed notion of Curate Lambertz was always in evidence:
“He nothing-God all. He the instrument – God the Worker”
Pastor Lambertz wanted to put up a school, for the village had no school. He had no building, no teachers, no funds but he had the Tabernacle and he had the rosary and on these he could depend entirely.
At last there was a possibility that his children would be taught and instructed in their religion and trained as good Catholics. These women whom he gathered to teach and care for the children were the first Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.
In his lifetime, Father Lambertz founded many convents, not only in Belgium, but also in Netherlands, Germany, England and Indonesia. Our congregation has expanded to include provinces of Ursuline Sisters worldwide, including Belgium, Canada, U.S., India, and DR Congo.
We invite you to be a part of this remarkable story, of how we have been called, since 1818 in war-torn Belgium, to respond the needs of the times and to make God known and loved by helping the most vulnerable.
Inspired by the life and charism of Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline tradition, and of our founder, John Lambertz, we the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk are committed to the mission of the universal church.
Our mission of making God known and loved, by our ministries and our prayerful presence to others continues today.