St. Jeanne Jugan was born on October 25, 1792, in France. She grew up during the French Revolution, and lost her father at a young age. Her mother continued to raise Jeanne and her three siblings Catholic, despite the anti-religious persecutions going on.
As a young woman, Jeanne worked as a domestic servant, and turned down two proposals of marriage, telling her mother that God had other plans for her. When she was 25, she joined the Third Order of St. John Eudes, a religious order for laypersons. She was a nurse in Saint-Servan, and then a servant for another member of the Third Order.
In 1839, Jeanne took in a blind, partially paralyzed woman named Anne Chauvin and began to care for her. She then opened her home to a few other people in need, and in 1842, she acquired an empty convent, where she housed 40 elderly people in her care.
Many young women were attracted to Jeanne’s mission and joined her in caring for the elderly poor. Jeanne established four more homes over the next decade, and by 1850, had over 100 followers in her congregation, known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Father Auguste Le Pailleur forced Jeanne, who went by Sister Mary of the Cross, out of her role as foundress and leader of the order. She spent the next 27 years in forced retirement, living a life of prayer. After her death on August 29, 1879, there was an investigation, Fr. Le Pailleur was removed and disciplined, and Jeanne was recognized as the foundress of Little Sisters of the Poor.
St. Jeanne was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
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