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Jeanne Jugan, the Shepherdess

The following reflection was written by Lynne Keating, an apartment Resident at our home in Newark, Delaware, for the occasion of Saint Jeanne Jugan’s 229th birthday, October 25, 2021.


On October 25, 1792,  Jeanne Jugan was born in France during the French Revolution. It was a time when the whole world seemed to be  suffering from violence, poverty & confusion.

People of faith were ridiculed, imprisoned or killed, so Jeanne was quietly baptized on the very day she was born. When Jeanne was only 4 years old, her father was lost at sea and her mother had to work to make ends meet. Because of this, Jeanne learned about her faith secretly from her mother and a few brave women in her village.

As a girl, Jeanne first worked as shepherdess. This was not an easy task.  She had to keep careful watch over the sheep, guiding them to green pastures and protecting them from predators. Perhaps God used this time to prepare Jeanne for the work He had in mind for her – watching over those who most need care & protection. She must have sensed this, for she told her mother that she believed God had a particular work in mind for her. It took many years until she discovered it. On a bleak winter night, she met a blind, elderly woman who had no one to care for her. Jeanne took the woman home and put her in her own bed. From then on, Jeanne slept in the attic. This one act of charity inspired thousands of women who came, and who still come, to follow the call of the Lord to care for the elderly infirmed.

As her community grew & gained attention, a jealous Church official had her replaced as the superior; in an attempt to squash her influence, he sent her out to beg on behalf of the poor.  But Jeanne’s humble kindness only inspired more attention, so she was made to retire and sent to live with the young Little Sisters. Still, God’s work for her was not finished. There she spent the next 27 years – a sort of shepherdess once again – guiding, protecting & forming those who would continue God’s good work. They never knew who she was. Through her humble acceptance of God’s will for her life, her mission spread to the ends of the earth and the love and mercy of God washed over the poor and needy of the world.  On this anniversary of her birthday, we remember her example and thank God for sending her and her Sisters to care for us!