The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk are celebrating 200 years of faith and ministry.
They opened the 200th anniversary of their foundation with a Eucharistic celebration on April 30, 2017, in St. John the Baptist Church in Tildonk, where their founder, Father John Lambertz, had been pastor for over 50 years. The sun shone brightly as the church bells rang out in the village to mark the start of the Jubilee Year.
Nearly 200 Ursuline Sisters, associates, family members and friends came together for the special liturgy in the same church where the first three Ursulines pronounced their vows on April 30, 1818. Father Steven Wielandts, Vicar of Religious for the Malines Diocese, was the principle celebrant, accompanied by six other priests and a deacon. His words encouraged all to guard the Word in our hearts, to stay young even after 200 years. “May God bless your congregation to an eternal newness.” Members of the Kantorij de Brug choir from Lier provided the magnificent music during the Liturgy.
A hearty welcome was extended to all present by Sr. Hildegarde Verherstraeten, Provincial of the Belgium Province, with the words, “Our celebration today marks the beginning of a year of renewal and study that will culminate on April 30, 2018, with the celebration of the foundation of our congregation of Ursulines of Tildonk by our spiritual father, John Cornelius Martin Lambertz.”
In her opening remarks Sister Bimla Minj, General Superior, addressed the congregation offering insights into the origins of the Ursulines founded by the Father John Lambertz. “The Lord has worked wonders by guiding, guarding and protecting our congregation as it spread out from Tildonk to mission lands over the years in India, Canada, the United States, Congo and British Guyana. We, as Ursulines of Tildonk, are incorporated into the vast family of Ursulines started in the 16th century by St. Angela Merici.
As she looks to the future, Sister Bimla said, “The flame of love invites us to rejoice and celebrate God’s love and faithfulness in keeping with the theme of the Jubilee: Rekindle the Fire of Love.”
A new portrayal of “the Curé” (Father John Lambertz) was unveiled during the Mass. It is an icon written by a local woman, Gerda Smets. Before starting her work, she visited the places related to Father Lambertz, read about his life and missionary work, reflected and contemplated his life and spirituality. Following the Mass, all were invited to a reception in the original Ursuline Convent and boarding school nearby the Church.
Today there are over 1,000 members of the Congregation in six countries: Belgium, Canada, Congo, India, United States, and Guyana. Besides continuing in the traditional ministries of education, healthcare and social services, Sisters are also active in parish ministry, administrative positions, hospital chaplaincy and work with the poor and senior citizens.
During the coming year each Province will have special events marking the founding of the Ursulines of Tildonk.