Johanna Francisca Maximiliana Amerlinck of Belgium – 1733-1810 She belonged to a noble family with a coat of arms which read:
FORTITER ET EFFICACITER (with fortitude and efficacy). She gave up all her wealth, gathered a group of 12 other ladies and began various charitable works. These were for the benefit of women and girls, the poor and needy, especially those affected by the aftermath of the French Revolution. In 1768 she began the Huys van Caritate in Courtrai. She gave her companions A Rule of life and a Spirituality based on simplicity, fortitude, sisterly love and sharing Christ’s compassionate love with the poor. Her great trust in Divine Providence enabled her to face the challenges of carrying on her services through trying times .. experiencing even “miraculous” provisions by God. In 1809, the time of the Revolution when Mother Amerlinck was deprived of the capital invested and of the income of the foundation De Meestere for several years, she had to carry herself the burden of this work and care for the poor ladies, the widows and the children with her own means. In 1809 she wrote to the Minister of Finance complaining that it was almost impossible for her to carry on and asking for help. One day when the need was great, she decided to go to the pawn house and sell her clothes. That same moment the doorbell rang and an unknown gentleman called on her. When she came to the parlour, he had disappeared, leaving on the table a purse with the needed amount of money. Was it St. Joseph? ( Now it is called St. Joseph’s parlour). So she could tell her Sisters: “Let us carry on undauntedly, trusting in divine providence who has never failed us.”
On 10th August, 1810, she returned to Her Master as a faithful servant to be rewarded a hundredfold.
Being very sick she received the last Sacraments with great and serene abandonment to the holy will of God. She told the sisters present: “do not weep, but pray that I may not have long to suffer in purgatory.”She was 76 years old hand had served the institute with wisdom and prudence for 42 years.
Was it the end of an epoch? NO. It was the beginning of a golden thread of love stretching into the future without end. Despite wars, persecutions, the confiscation of property and the emergence of crises and various trials, this work has continued without interruption for more than 240 years.
Her own prophetic words in the Rule of Life say:
“United with one another and united with our fellowmen, trusting in a never-failing providence, let us carry on the work of our congregation. We are shaping the future. We are preparing a new generation ” (from the Rule of Life).