August 30 is the Feast of Jeanne Jugan – Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. In October of 2009 Pope Benedict XVI canonized her a Saint. Although the ceremony which took place in Rome officially numbered Jeanne Jugan among the Saints, we, Little Sisters of the Poor, have always believed her to be a Saint. In her humility and littleness she lived for God and gave all to God. She cared for his beloved poor and saw Jesus in each and every one of them.
Each year, on her feast day, the Little Sisters celebrate by spending the day with St. Jeanne Jugan in a very special way. We began with the celebration of the liturgy in our chapel at 10:30 AM. Which was simply decorated adding to the simplicity by which Jeanne Jugan lived. To the left of the altar was a large panel of Jeanne Jugan which was adorned on either side by standing candelabras and an array of colorful flowers in the center. Another arrangement of flowers, in a basket, depicting the “begging basket” used by Jeanne Jugan as she relied on Divine Providence begging for God and his beloved poor.
The Mass was a beautiful mass in honor of St. Jeanne Jugan, and The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Minnesota joined us as the main celebrant. Concelebrating were our four Resident priests, with Deacon Rod Palmer assisting. Our Lectors and those in the offertory procession were selected to represent our Jeanne Jugan Family – Little Sisters, Association Jeanne Jugan members and Residents. St. Ambrose choir joined us. Directed by Mary Reimann, the choir consisted of 13 young women including a violinist, Sister Mary Ellen Proulx of the Congregation of St. Joseph as the pianist. Speaking of the choir’s performance, Archbishop Nienstedt commented, “I don’t think the choirs of angels in heaven could have sung more beautifully.” He then thanked them for joining us for this special celebration.
In his homily, Archbishop Nienstedt spoke of the Gospel passage taken from St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount – the beatitudes – so richly lived by St. Jeanne Jugan.
“St. Jeanne Jugan,” he said, “was a Christian disciple who truly lived the spirit of the beatitudes, by seeing the face of Christ in the poor and the aged. ‘It is so beautiful to be poor, to have nothing, to await all from God’! These words, spoken by our holy mother foundress, are a paraphrase of the first beatitude. They express well that great virtue which would mark her life – a hope and trust in the Divine Providence of a loving Father who provides all that is good to His beloved children; a good shepherd who never leaves the flock untended.
“St. Jeanne Jugan had reason for hope – she had encountered Jesus in the elderly poor, in her life of prayer, and even in the quiet sufferings and humiliations that occupied so much of her life.” He spoke of how Jeanne Jugan discovered the Divine Love that is the source of all true happiness and the wellspring of all joy, and how she learned humility and poverty from Jesus, who had come not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for the many.
The Archbishop concluded his homily by addressing the Little Sisters: “You, my dear Sisters, with the help of your dedicated staff and so many wonderful volunteers, continue on the great mission of your foundress by providing comfort and care to the aged and infirmed poor, a mission that you have done so well here in St. Paul for the last century and a quarter. And you continue to serve Christ faithfully in all who call the Holy Family Residence their home. And may you always strive to imitate not only St. Jeanne Jugan, but more importantly, Jesus Christ Himself. It is this imitation that is the key to our happiness and the gateway to eternal life.”
As the day began with the celebration of the Eucharist, so it ended with Christ in the Eucharist. A holy hour was held in the chapel with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. A special rosary with meditations on St. Jeanne Jugan was recited followed by evening prayer and reposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In God, with St. Jeanne Jugan, we spent the day in love. “Blessed by God”!