The congregation was founded by John Lambertz (1785-1869) parish priest of Tildonk, Belgium. It had its beginning on Ascension Day, April 30 1818, when, under the guidance of Fr Lambertz, three young women from Tildonk came together and began a school for the children of the parish in the presbytery.
Soon other devout young women joined the original group. They lived together as religious and devoted themselves to the education of the children entrusted to their care. Originally, Fr Lambertz had no intention of founding a new religious congregation or a branch of the Ursulines. Nonetheless he gave his sisters the name “Daughters of St Ursula” after the saint who for centuries had been considered patroness of virgins, educators and students.
In 1819 the number of the sisters had increased to seven. At the request of the parents small girls were accepted as boarders in the presbytery. Soon the sisters and pupils were so numerous that they could no longer be accommodated in the presbytery. Building was begun at the site where the Ursuline Convent in Tildonk now stands.
The statutes for the sisters were approved on May 14 1822 by the Archbishop of Malines. In August the sisters were dispersed by order of the Dutch government. After much penance and prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows, Fr Lambertz received permission on March 20 1823 to reassemble the sisters, but as a lay association. On March 4 1825 the first 12 sisters pronounced their vows and on March 13 the first superior was elected.
After the independence of Belgium (1830) the congregation was able to develop freely and in 1832 it was recognised as a genuine religious congregation by the Diocese of Malines. On May 1 1832 the first 18 sisters pronounced their final vows. At the suggestion of Cardinal Sterckx the sisters adopted the Rule of St Augustine and Constitutions of the Ursulines of Bordeaux which had been modified and adapted to the times and local needs by the Archbishop in cooperation with Fr Lambertz and the sisters themselves.