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August 30

St Jeanne Jugan - August 30

Saint Jeanne Jugan or
St. Mary of the Cross

Nun, Foundress

(1792 – 1879)

“Remain little, hidden by humility in all God wants from you, as being only the instruments of his work.”

Saint Jeanne Jugan

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life  

Jeanne was born on October 15, 1792, in Cancale, Ille-et-Vilaine, France. She was the sixth of eight children born to her parents, Joseph and Marie. She grew up during the political and religious upheavals of the French Revolution. Four years after she was born, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her mother struggled to provide for Jeanne and her three siblings, while also providing them secretly with religious instruction amid the anti-Catholic persecutions of the day.

Jeanne worked as a shepherdess while still very young. She could barely read and write. When she was 16, she took a job as the kitchen maid of the Viscountess de la Choue. The viscountess, a devout Catholic, had Jeanne accompany her when she visited the sick and the poor.

At age 18, and again six years later, she declined marriage proposals from the same man. Jeanne told her mother that God had other plans – calling her to “a work which is not yet founded”.

An Associate and a Nurse

At age 25, Jeanne became an Associate of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary founded by John Eudes (Eudists). She also worked as a nurse in the town hospital of Saint-Servan. Jeanne worked hard at this physically demanding job but after six years, she left the hospital due to her own health issues.

Then, Jeanne worked for 12 years as the servant of a fellow member of the Eudist Third Order, until the woman’s death in 1835. In the course of Jeanne’s duties, the two women recognized a similar Catholic spirituality and began to teach catechism to the children of the town and to care for the poor and other unfortunates.

Foundress of a Religious Congregation – Little Sisters of the Poor

During 1839, a year of economic hardship in Saint-Servan, Jeanne was sharing an apartment with an older woman and an orphaned young lady. It was during the winter of this year that Jeanne encountered Anne Chauvin, an elderly woman who was blind, partially paralyzed, and had no one to care for her.

Jeanne carried Anne home to her apartment and took her in from that day forward, letting the woman have her bed while Jeanne slept in the attic. She soon took in two more old women in need of help, and by 1841 she had rented a room to provide housing for a dozen elderly people. The following year, she acquired an unused convent building that could house 40 of them.

During the 1840’s, many other young women joined Jeanne in her mission of service to the elderly poor. In May 1842, Jeanne was elected superior of the small association. Her spiritual guide during the process, Father Auguste Le Pailleur, curate of the parish of Saint-Servan, was present. The association drew up a rule, inspired by the Rule of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God. They adopted the name “Servants of the Poor” at this time.

By begging in the streets, the foundress was able to establish four more homes for their beneficiaries by the end of the decade. By 1850, over 100 women had joined the congregation that had become known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Forced Out

All of this was forgotten over a year later when Fr. Le Pailleur annulled the re-election of Jeanne as superior and replaced her. Jeanne continued her work obediently serving the poor and her fellow sisters and superior. She was awarded the Montyon Prize and her work was covered by the press for the next few years.

In 1852, Jeanne was recalled to Rennes, where she was ordered to cease all activity for the congregation and to cut ties with benefactors. The superior and Fr. Le Pailleur ran the congregation with no input from her. She was forced out. A short while later, Jeanne was sent to the estate of La Tour Saint-Joseph in 1956, where the motherhouse and novitiate would be. It was here that she lived in obscurity among the novices and postulants where all memories of her founding activities, sacrifices, and successes were wiped out by those in power.

Little Sisters of the Poor Expands

Meanwhile, after communities of Little Sisters had begun to spread throughout France, the work expanded to England. From 1866 to 1871 five communities of Little Sisters were founded across the United States.

Humble to the End

Jeanne silently stood in the back as the history of the order was celebrated, with no acknowledgment of her part. She peacefully pointed out to Fr. Le Pailleur that he had stolen her life’s work, but Jeanne did so with the spirit of detachment that characterizes the saints.  Jeanne freely and gladly gave it to him, rather than clinging to it for herself. Her work belonged to Christ alone.  Jeanne once told a sister: “She who holds her tongue keeps her soul.”

These years of obscurity were not easy for Jeanne. They were her ultimate cross. The separation from her beloved poor was a particular agony for her. She wanted to be called by her religious name, St. Mary of the Cross. It was during these years that she would live the silence of Our Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross in union with Her Crucified Savior. She lived the silence of the Cross in order that her union with Our Lord would be made complete.

Her Death

At the age of 86, Jeanne died on August 29, 1879. She was buried at the graveyard of the General Motherhouse in Saint-Pern, France.  At the time of death, many of the Little Sisters did not know that she was the one to have founded the congregation and her community had 2,400 followers spread across Europe and to North America. Le Pailleur, however, was investigated and dismissed in 1890. Then, after that, Jeanne came to be acknowledged as their foundress.

Born :                  October 15, 1792, in Cancale, Ille-et-Vilaine, France

Died:                   August 29, 1879 age 86 in Saint-Pern, France

Beatified:           October 3, 1982 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:        October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI

Feast Day:          August 8

Patron Saint:     Destitute Elderly

Source:

Reflection

Saint Jeanne Jugan’s life was marked by selflessness and humility. She saw the suffering and poverty of the elderly poor and, without seeking recognition or praise, devoted herself to their care. Her example reminds us of the power of humble service and the importance of putting the needs of others before our own. Even after her lifetime work of establishing the Little Sisters of the Poor was stolen away from her and she lived in obscurity, Saint Jeanne Jugan shows us the silence of the Cross and an abandonment to all He asks. She silently abandoned herself to God, even if when everything came crashing down around her.

How we can better serve those in need and live out the teachings of Christ in our daily actions without recognication of our efforts? Remember that we are the most free when we cling to nothing in this life and we turn to God in our emptiness. He is all we truly need.

Prayers

Saint Jeanne Jugan, you dedicated your life to caring for the elderly poor, showing them love, dignity, and compassion, so we turn to you in prayer.

As we face the challenges and demands of our own lives, help us to embrace the selflessness and humility that marked your life. Teach us to recognize the dignity and worth of every person, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Guide us to trust in Divine Providence and to surrender ourselves to God’s will with unwavering faith, just as you did. Help us to live out the teachings of Jesus in the Beatitudes, showing meekness, mercy, and pureness of heart in our interactions with others.

Saint Jeanne Jugan, you founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, leaving a legacy of love and care that continues to inspire us. We ask for your intercession and guidance as we strive to follow your example of service and charity.

Saint Jeanne Jugan, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Jeanne Jugan has the best advice for getting through the crazy

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 30 August – St Mary of the Cross (1792 – 1879) Jeanne Jugan

Canonization of Five New Saints by Pope Benedict XVI

Catholic News Agency – Saint Jeanne Jugan Feast Day: Aug 30

Catholic Online – St. Jeanne Jugan

Cradio – St Jeanne Jugan

Franciscan Media – Saint Jeanne Jugan

Little Sisters of the Poor – Saint Jeanne Jugan – Her Story

National Catholic Reporter – Why Charles Dickens Cried When He Met St. Jeanne Jugan by Patty Knap

Saints, Feast, Family – St. Jeanne Jugan’s Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879)

Saint Resources – Jeanne Jugan

The Life of Blessed Jeanne Jugan (Sister Mary of the Cross) – full online book

uCatholic – Saint Jeanne Jugan

 

Video Links

Saint of the Day — Jeanne Jugan — August 30 – YouTube (Church Militant)

Cradio Saint of the Day: Saint Jeanne Jugan – YouTube (CatholicSaints.Info)

St. Jeanne Jugan – YouTube (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)