Ordination of a Little Sister of the Poor: Jeanne Jugan

The ordination of a Little Sister of the Poor is likely not even a small blip on your radar. But this low profile servant of God is on the short line to receive the ultimate earthly honor her church can provide. Known best to God and those needy, aged people whom she served, Little Sister Jeanne Jugan is primed and ready to enter the Major Leagues of international sanctity when she is ordained this fall.

The story of Jeanne Jugan had for many years been buried pretty much in obscurity. Her work after all gained no huge headlines and she didn’t command lots of well healed supporters. What Jeanne did was to live the life she felt God called her to with the most devotion she could deliver.

She was born into a very humble family in a French fishing village in 1792, lost her father in a fishing accident when she was only 4 and, with her siblings, worked alongside her mother to provide a living for the family. When she reached marriageable age Jeanne turned away from a suitor because of her announced desire to serve God with her life.

Only after some considerable time did her true calling become clear. It began with the simple deed of welcoming a poor elderly blind woman in need into her home and giving her compassionate care. It wasn’t long before this single deed of Christian love took over her life. Jeanne Jugan led a few other similarly minded women to extend this kind of assistance to the needy members among the elderly community, certainly a portion of the population in early 19th century France that was not the first in line for government assistance. Serving God by serving others in need became the focus of Jeanne’s life and almost by accident she shared this calling with several other women forming the basis of a religious order. In this simple way, Jeanne Jugan gave herself over to the founding of what would come to be known as the “Little Sisters of the Poor”, a women’s religious order.

Only after some considerable time did her true calling become clear. It began with the simple deed of welcoming a poor elderly blind woman in need into her home and giving her compassionate care. It wasn’t long before this single deed of Christian love took over her life. Jeanne Jugan led a few other similarly minded women to extend this kind of assistance to the needy members among the elderly community, certainly a portion of the population in early 19th century France that was not the first in line for government assistance. Serving God by serving others in need became the focus of Jeanne’s life and almost by accident she shared this calling with several other women forming the basis of a religious order. In this simple way, Jeanne Jugan gave herself over to the founding of what would come to be known as the “Little Sisters of the Poor”, a women’s religious order.

Though not acknowledged as the foundress of the Little Sisters for many years, Jeanne Jugan worked shoulder to shoulder with aspiring sisters sharing her dedicated spirit and her internal calling without seeking recognition. Her daily labor on behalf of the elderly poor continued for some 27 years. Only after time was it revealed that indeed it was Jeanne who had taken the lead in the earliest days of the founding of Little Sisters of the Poor.

In 1982 the life and works of Jeanne Jugan were finally recognized by the Catholic Church hierarchy when Pope John Paul II declared Jeanne to be “Beatified”. This official declaration indicates that the church has begun to consider the possibility of naming Jeanne a “Saint” of the church. To receive the acclaim of sainthood requires a very thorough investigation of the formal case of any candidate for sainthood brought before the church officials for consideration.

On Oct. 11, 2009 Jeanne Jugan will be canonized a saint of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI. She has been accepted into this spiritually elite body of men and women called saints. Her life was filled with service and the organization which she founded continues to this day to serve the needs of the elderly poor around the world . In all there are more than 200 homes staffed by Little Sisters of the Poor all offering themselves in service to God by serving the needs of some of his most destitute creations. Thirty two of these special residences of loving care are located in the U. S.

Besides being canonized, Jeanne Jugan is recognized as patron saint among the elderly because she gave her life to help meet their special end of life needs. The message that flows from the life of Jeanne Jugan speaks to our world and to those who are more interested in reducing health costs than in ministering to the needs of our most need and helpless citizens. Jeanne Jugan in this way is truly a saint for the aged and for the ages.