About our FOUNDRESS
Jeanne Jugan, also known as Sister Mary of the Cross, was a French woman who became known for the dedication of her life to the neediest of the elderly poor. Her service resulted in the establishment of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the elderly who have no other resources throughout the world. She has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church.
Jeanne was born in 1792 in the midst of the French Revolution at Cancale, Brittany. Her father worked aboard a New Foundland-bound fishing vessel, like many of his countrymen. In 1796, he was lost at sea. Jeanne and her three siblings soon knew poverty and work. She took on different jobs, including that of kitchen-maid in a manor near Cancale, nurse in hospital at Saint Servan and domestic nurse.
To the marriage proposal of a young sailor, she answered, "God wants me for Himself. He is keeping me for a workwhich is not yet known, for a work which is not yet founded."
Inception of Little Sisters of the Poor
One winter evening in 1839, in Saint Servan, France, she opened her heart and home to an elderly blind, paralyzed woman who suddenly found herself alone after the death of her sister. Jeanne carried Anne Chauvin through the streets of the small town, brought her to her apartment and placed her in her bed. Another woman followed and then, a third. The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, with its mission of hospitality to the elderly, was born.
Because of the great poverty in France in the years following the French Revolution, Jeanne’s bold gesture of charity toward the aged answered a pressing need. Her small apartment soon became too small to accommodate the growing number of elderly who knocked at her door seeking hospitality. Several young women came to assist Jeanne in the care of the Aged and the group moved from one building to another until they could obtain a suitable home. In order to provide and maintain the Homes, Jeanne initiated the collecting from friends and making new benefactors, thus more people were involved in the care of these poor aged people.
Jeanne envisioned hospitality to the elderly as a humble fraternal service which unites in one family the Little Sisters and associates with them lay associates, friends, benefactors and volunteers, who desire to share the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and provide generously for their needs.
After communities of Little Sisters had begun to spread throughout France, the work spread to England in 1851. From 1866-1871 five communities of Little Sisters were founded across the United States.
Approval of Constitution
By 1879, the community Jeanne founded had 2400 Little Sisters and had spread across Europe and to North America. That year Pope Leo XIII approved the Constitutions of the Little Sisters of the Poor. At the time of her death on August 29, 1879, many of the Little Sisters did not know that she was the one to have founded the Congregation. For 27 years Jeanne was put aside by Father Le Pailleur who helped the nascent Congregation, however was investigated and dismissed in 1890 and Jeanne came to be acknowledged as their foundress.
Although, Jeanne’s earthly mission ended she continues to live among her daughters and one with them in their new tasks, she does not cease to transmit to them, for the fulfillment of their vocation, the life which she draws for them from God.
POPE BENEDICT XVI
said during his homily at the Canonisation ceremony in Rome:
“Jeanne lived the mystery of love by peacefully accepting darkness and divesting herself of all material possessions until her death. Her charism is always relevant, while so many aged persons suffer different types of poverty and solitude, sometimes even abandoned by their families. The spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on limitless trust in Providence, which Jeanne Jugan drew from the Beatitudes, illuminated her whole existence. The evangelical impulse is followed today throughout the world in the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which she founded and which bears witness to her following the mercy of God and the compassionate love of the Heart of Jesus for the littlest ones. May Saint Jeanne Jugan be for the elderly a living source of hope and for the persons so generously placing themselves at their service a powerful stimulus to pursue and develop her work!”
Jeanne Jugan says
“LITTLE…VERY LITTLE, BE VERY LITTLE
“Remain little…hidden by humility. In all that God wants
from you, as being only the instruments of His work.”