Today’s saint lived a life of service even though she had truly little material wealth to give. She reminds us that sometimes the most precious gift we can give to countries around the world.
Jeanne Jugan was born in northern France during the French Revolution. When Jeanne was 3 years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother struggled to raise her eight children alone: four died young.
At age 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter, she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes.
After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor, and taught catechism to children. After her friend’s death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran.
In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members, and more guests. Mère Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association — the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853, the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.
Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne’s re-election as superior in 1843; nine years later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. In 1890, the Holy See removed him from office.
By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community’s constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on Aug. 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970. She was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini