Jeanne Jugan (1789-1892), also known as Sister Mary of the Cross, founded the religious order of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was born into a large family in Brittany, France; her father died at sea when she was only 4 years old. Jeanne worked many jobs to help support her family, one of which was being a servant in the home of a noblewoman who set an example to Jeanne of caring for the material needs of the poor. In her twenties, Jeanne joined a lay religious order and began teaching catechism to children and ministering to the poor and elderly. She took one infirm, elderly woman into her home, then another. Eventually, she acquired an old convent building, where she could make a home for more women, and the community of service that grew around her became the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was later forced out of leadership of the order by a priest who had been appointed superior general of the congregation. She endured this injustice for 27 years, and at the time of her death Jeanne Jugan was not known publicly as the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Her feast day is August 30.
“God wants me for himself, he is keeping me for a work which is not yet founded.” — St. Jeanne Jugan
Questions for Reflection
Jeanne Jugan did not set out in life to found a religious order or to be a person of influence in the church. She simply lived a life of answering the call to serve the person in need in front of her with love. Her conviction was that God wanted her and would place her where she could best show God’s love. What work do you believe that God is keeping for you? What parts of yourself does God want to use to love others?