Jeanne Jugan was born on October 25, 1792 in a small fishing village of Brittany, France. She was the sixth of the eight children of Joseph and Marie Jugan. When she was three and a half, her father was lost at sea. Her mother struggled for years to keep the family together in their one room earthen-floored cottage. When Jeanne was about 16, she became the kitchen maid of the Viscountess de la Choue, a kind-hearted Christian woman, who took her on visits to the sick and the poor on and around her estate. Jeanne learned by example, the meaning of truly Christian charity and a refinement of manners not customary among those of the peasant class. When she was about 25, Jeanne took a job in the crowded hospital in the town of Saint Servan. After six years of devoted toil at the hospital, she was so worn out that she had to leave this work. She went to work for a good Christian woman named Mlle. Lecoq. Daily, the two women spent hours in prayer, and they assisted at Mass. They also instructed the town's children in their catechism. They also cared for the poor and other unfortunates until the elderly woman died. In 1837, the forty-five year old Jeanne and a seventy-two year old woman named Francoise Aubert rented part of a humble cottage. They were joined by Virginie Tredaniel, a seventeen year old orphan and the three formed a community of prayer. They taught catechism and assisted the poor. Whatever they had left over from their earnings, they gave to the poor. At age 47, with the approval of Francoise and Virginie, Jeanne turned her attention to the most pitiful of the poor-abandoned old ladies. In 1839, she brought home a blind widow named Anne Chauvin. Jeanne gave up her own bed to provide sleeping quarters for their guest. Henceforth, she was to share intimately in the sufferings of the poor, even physically, considering herself one of them. This characteristic is expressed in the name that eventually developed for Jeanne's charitable work: The Little Sisters of the Poor. As the number of guests grew, so also did her little community. Jeanne wrote a somple rule for them and herself. Putting aside personal pride, theLittle Sisters daily went out door to door asking for food, clothing and money. In 1879 Jeanne was eighty-seven. At this time the community she had founded had 2,400 Little Sisters and had spread across Europe and across the Ocean. Toward the end of August, she was given the Last Sacraments. Her last words were, "O Mary, my dear Mother, come to me. You know I love you and how I long to see You!" After her peaceful death, Jeanne was buried in the graveyard at the motherhouse. She was beatified in Rome on October 3, 1982.
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By Justin Soutar
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