Sister Jeanne Véronique celebrated her 25th anniversary of religious profession as a Little Sister of the Poor on July 24. Father Richard Hite, M.S.A. offered a Mass of Thanksgiving. The Little Sisters, Residents, staff and friends joined Sister as she renewed her vows to serve God and the elderly and celebrated her Jubilee.
“As a Little Sister who follows in the footsteps of Saint Jeanne Jugan by begging on behalf of the poor, have you ever been slapped like your Foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan?” Father Hite asked Sister Jeanne Véronique. “Not yet,” she replied.
Our Foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan traveled the roads on foot seeking alms, food, clothing and other items essential to the home like used woolens and linens, a cauldron, etc. The reception was not always kind. One day, an elderly bachelor became irritated and slapped her in the face. Humbly, she told him, “Thank you; that was for me. Now, please give me something for my poor!” Such leniency opened the old bachelor’s wallet.
Thus, with a smile, she knew how to invite the rich to reflection, to discover the needs of the poor, and the collecting became true evangelization, a call to conversion of heart.
As our begging sister, Sr. Jeanne Véronique carries on this 179-year-old tradition by begging for all the needs of our home.
In his homily, Father Hite spoke about the tremendous challenges Sister met in answering God’s call 25 years ago. She went from all that is familiar to all that is foreign, from all that is second nature to all that is confusing in life, from speaking her home tongue clearly to being like a small child in language.
In ancient cultures, people very rarely left their own city walls. Those from outside were suspect, they were unknown, perhaps hostile, you were on your guard. Despite this Abraham went into the unknown at the call of God as you, Sister Jeanne Véronique, have done. Then without cell phones, without computers, without SKYPE, without contacting your homeland instantly with photographs, they went into a foreign country. Today when you travel to a foreign country its very different than it was 20 or more years ago. As I recall missionaries, when they went to a foreign country, they went there to die. They were going to go for life and they were very careful.
It was very different from now. If you go now, you don’t feel that terrible loss of your family as you did 20 to 25 years ago. Because you can contact them on cell phone on your computer, call them. You can go into town to find a McDonalds – even if you are in Moscow or New Zealand. Foreign language courses would be easy to take on the internet. In the past, the new culture was hard to adapt to, you felt like you were in kindergarten again, even if you learned the language, because you didn’t know all the nuances to express certain things that you were trying to express.
And that was a great poverty.
You at first, when you arrived in the new country, you were excited, perhaps, because it was new. You visited all the places that were to be visited. Later on you might have learned from old friends that your parents sobbed for days, at your absence. Your life was new, theirs was loss.
As times passed, you realized a Divine Command to go from your country and your kindred was not just from the novice to the new comer, once and for all, your life was a constant injunction of God, built into your life, to be ready to leave your comfort zone to go from the known to the unknown, from one fruitful ministry, perhaps, to one that was not of your choosing or even to your liking.
The Little Sisters are known to be gadabouts about the world. Join the Little Sisters and see the world. You go from one home to another, from one province to another, and from one country to another. And it is not a matter, though, of finding a comfortable nest, where you can settle down to a peaceful old age.
“Today,” he said “we are really celebrating Sister’s answering Gods call and listening to His will for her life, her 25 years of faithfulness to the mission of Jeanne Jugan!” And he prayed that she would lovingly persevere along the path that she joyfully chose years ago, which leads to the Lord. Amen!
Mass was followed by a delicious dinner including Sister’s favorite, a Filipino tradition called Lechon (roast pig), and Jubilee Cake.
After dinner, the employees planned some entertainment. Knowing of Sister’s home province in the Philippines, several performed a traditional dance from that region. Another group of employees sang a well-known Gospel favorite; both performances were met with great applause.
It might interest you to know the origin of the collecting, a major source of income for the Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne Jugan founded her work on an evangelical challenge to live from day to day, never amassing goods or money, refusing perpetual endowments, placing all her confidence in God. The generosity of friends and the income of the Sisters, whose work provided for the house, were not enough. The good elderly women who were in the habit of begging, told Jeanne, “Replace us, collect for us!” A religious of Saint John of God urged the foundress to follow this advice and offered her her first collecting basket. Jeanne’s natural Cancalais pride could have rebelled against this practice, but she embraced it as a way to provide for her poor old folk. “They will send you to take up the collection, my little daughters,” she would later tell the novices; “it will cost you. I also did it with my basket; it cost me, but I did it for the good Lord and for the poor.” This is the origin of the collecting, a major source of income for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“Never forget the poor are our Lord.” – Sainted Foundress Jeanne Jugan