Missionary Cooperative Plan Spotlight: Little Sisters of the Poor

In the Footsteps of St. Jeanne Jugan

Continuing the work of our Foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, the Little Sisters of the Poor at St. Joseph’s Home in Palatine offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself. This is our only mission. By our fourth vow of hospitality, we promise God to consecrate ourselves totally to the service of the elderly poor. This consecrated hospitality is a witness to the mercy and compassionate love of the heart of Jesus. Saint Jeanne Jugan, said it this way, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord. In caring for the poor say to yourself: This is for my Jesus—what a great grace!”

This began on a cold wintery night in France in 1839, when Saint Jeanne Jugan encountered an elderly woman named Anne who was blind, paralyzed, and had lost her only means of support. Jeanne took Anne to her apartment, placed her in her own bed, and made a place for herself in the attic where she would sleep and pray. Before long, others came asking for her help, and her friends joined her in her life of prayer and service to the needy elderly. The work expanded quickly, and the Little Sisters of the Poor came to the Chicago area in 1876.

As we continue in the footsteps of St. Jeanne Jugan, we believe our mission is needed as urgently today as it was back then, and we keep her spirit alive. Our lives are made up of many humble, hidden tasks. We serve the elderly day and night, striving to meet their physical needs, and to minister to them spiritually. We seek to relieve their sufferings as much as possible and to be a prayerful and supportive presence, according to each one’s faith. Our residents – even some who aren’t Catholic – often go to the chapel to pray. Rather than a “Senior Living Facility” or “Retirement community,” St. Joseph’s Home is truly a home where Christ is at the center.

The accompaniment and care of the dying is the summit of our vocation. It is a powerful witness to the Gospel of Life. It is our privilege to accompany those who are who are preparing to meet Our Lord. As the moment approaches for their life’s journey to end – a moment determined by God alone – we take turns to stay with them and pray with them, keeping a constant vigil even throughout the night.

But we don’t do this work alone. St. Jeanne Jugan had an innate sense of solidarity, envisioning her mission of hospitality as a means of creating a family where the Little Sisters, the elderly, and many people of good will would share a common spirit of charity and compassion. When asked how she would provide for those whom she welcomed, she replied, “We will share them, sir, if you will be so kind, you will provide for them and I shall look after them.” The Little Sisters of the Poor continue this tradition, visiting produce markets, grocery stores, and other businesses and parishes to beg for what is needed for the residents. We have no source of support or funding other than the local community. Because government assistance covers only a fraction of the costs of care, we rely heavily on the generosity of others. We cannot offer anything in return, but, like St. Jeanne Jugan, we pray with gratitude for our benefactors every day!

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

What is the Missionary Cooperative Plan? Each year over 200 groups request to be considered for a mission appeal in the Joliet Diocese: priests, sisters and laypeople that need our help so that they can continue doing their work for God’s poor. Our present reality with COVID 19 has been challenging for everyone in the world. Obviously, with the precaution of social distancing, the missioners who participate in our MCP do not have a physical audience, nor can they travel even if they did. Most of them count on the MCP to sustain their much needed mission works.

So, we are inviting you to be in solidarity with them by giving whatever you can to the MCP appeal in support the groups who have been approved for 2020. You may donate online or by sending a check made payable to “Diocese of Joliet Pontifical Mission Societies” and mailing to the Joliet Diocese Mission Office at 16555 Weber Road, Crest Hill, Illinois 60403. (Put “MCP” on the memo line.) 100% of your giving will go to these organizations.

Each week we will be highlighting one of our missionary groups so that you will know a more about the work they do for God’s people. We know that times are and will continue to be financially challenging for many. Please do what you can and remember that your prayers for the missioners and their good works are always appreciated. God does not call everyone to work directly among God’s poor and needy here and in other countries. But you are part of the Church’s mission. Your support with prayers and financial aid makes mission work possible. Bless you all! Let us keep in mind what Pope Francis has said: We are mission!

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