Early Life and Early Hardship
St. Jeanne Jugan (1792 - 1879) was born in a coastal town in Brittany, France to a poor fisherman named Joseph and his wife Marie. Her father died out at sea when she was only 4 years of age. Because of the persecution against the Church during the French Revolution, Marie raised her children in secret in the Catholic Faith.
After the death of the husband and father, the family scraped by with Marie taking farming jobs and receiving help from neighbors. Jeanne learned her catechism and also how to read and write. She also was taught how to spin and to knit and worked as a shepherdess at an early age. Then, at the age of sixteen, she served as a kitchen maid for the Viscountess de la Choue. This would prove to be a turning point in her life.
Serving the Poor and Teaching the Faith
Opening Up Her Home
The Little Sisters of the Poor
In 1856, the motherhouse was moved to Saint-Pern, and Jeanne was forced to live there in retirement and continued obscurity among the novices and postulants. She was called by her religious name of Sr. Mary of the Cross and never referred to as Jeanne Jugan lest the secret be revealed. She accepted this injustice without complaint and lived a life of prayer and service to the other sisters never revealing the truth of her role as the foundress of the order. At her death on August 29, 1879, few of the Little Sisters, despite many having encountered her, were aware that the real foundress had died.
A Surprising Response
After her death, in 1890, the truth was revealed and Fr. La Pailleur was investigated and subsequently removed from his position. Eventually, the Little Sisters of the Poor rightfully recognized that Jeanne Jugan was the foundress. And, in 2009, she was canonized St. Jeanne Jugan by Pope Benedict XVI.
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Feast Day (Memorial): August 29th