By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Pope Benedict XVI has announced plans to canonize Blessed Jeanne Jugan, founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, on Oct. 11, 2009. She is among nine other new saints who will be canonized by the end of this year.
“We knew it was only a matter of time, but everyone was just thrilled when the official announcement was made,” said Sr Constance Veit, publications coordinator in the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Baltimore province to Catholic News Service.
“We’ve anticipated this for so long.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor trace their roots to a cold winter night in 1839 in Brittany, France when Jeanne Jugan encountered an elderly blind woman on the streets and decided to taken her into her own home. Jeanne carried the woman home, placing her in her own bed.
In the following weeks, more women showed up at her doorstep and before long, Jeanne and several other women had established an apostolate that was to become what we know today as The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Jeanne’s virtue was put to a severe test when she became the victim of a brazen act of deception by a superior that caused her to be hidden away for 27 years while he took all the credit for her work. Not until after her death was an apostolic inquiry launched and the truth uncovered that Jeanne Jugan was the real founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The congregation has grown to more than 2,700 members, who care for approximately 13,000 needy elderly people in 202 family style homes throughout the world, including 32 in North America.
Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1982. In December, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI signed a document recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession.
The miracle involved Dr Edward Gatz, a retired Nebraska anesthesiologist who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1989. The doctor was advised by a Jesuit priest at Creighton University in Omaha to pray to Blessed Jeanne and a few months later a follow up biopsy found Gatz, who is still alive at the age of 71, to be cancer free.
The pope will also canonize the Belgian born Fr Damien de Veuster, who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii, and died of the disease, on Oct. 11, along with Blessed Zygmunt Felinski, Blessed Francisco Coll Guitart and Blessed Rafael Arnaiz Baron.
On April 26, the pope plans to canonize Blessed Arcangelo Tadini, Blessed Bernardo Tolomei, Blessed Nuno di Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, Blessed Gertrude Comensoli, and Blessed Caterina Volpicelli.
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