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International award raises awareness of the dignity of the elderly


Founded in Geneva in 1963 and active in 78 countries, the International Institute for Promotion and Prestige is composed of members drawn from political, diplomatic, scientific, cultural and economic circles. The Institute’s mission is to recognize people, institutions, groups and companies around the world whose activities, accomplishments and work deserve to be brought to the attention of a wide audience through the award of an international distinction.

Several months ago, Mrs. Gisèle Rutman, founder and first president of the Institute for Promotion and Prestige, announced to Mother General María del Monte Auxiliadora that she had been chosen to receive the organization’s World Consecration Award. Sadly, Ms. Rutman passed away in April, but Mr. Alain Bernot, Chairman of the Executive and Advisory Committee of the IIPP, visited our motherhouse in Brittany to present Mother General with the award on June 30, 2022.

A good number of Little Sisters, Residents, staff and volunteers from several nearby Homes, together with local dignitaries, joined the motherhouse community for the award ceremony, followed by a time of fellowship. In accepting the award, Mother General emphasized her conviction that this honor was intended for the entire Congregation “in recognition of the commitment of all the Little Sisters of the whole world.” She introduced five Little Sisters, representing each continent where the Congregation is present, who posed for photos with her, Mr. Bernot and other dignitaries.

Mother María used the occasion to express the Little Sisters’ profound gratitude toward all those who collaborate in our mission — lay associates, staff members, volunteers and benefactors — evoking the words of Saint Jeanne Jugan, “Our benefactors, where would we be without them?”

She also sought to raise awareness of the dignity and the needs of the elderly in today’s society. “Pope Francis does not cease to speak of this, as did Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, who often said that the elderly are a treasure for the Church and for humanity.”

“At this moment in history,” Mother María continued, “old age is sometimes seen as a failure — on the contrary, old age is a privilege and the culmination of a whole life. We should count on the elderly, who are a source of experience and wisdom that should not be lost. Every human life retains its dignity until the last breath. We wish to testify to this by our humble, hidden service, while at the same time working to defend every human life — especially the lives of the elderly who are confided to us — striving to make them happy until their very last breath, surrounding them with affection, respect and care, just as Jeanne Jugan did.”

“We want to live the words of Jeanne Jugan, ‘What happiness for us, to be a Little Sister of the Poor!’ And we desire to carry on our work in a spirit of joy, with a smile. Jeanne Jugan used to say, ‘The elderly do not like long faces.’”
“However, today the candidates for a life of service to the elderly are too few. Despite the lack of Little Sisters and the challenges in responding to so many demands in our Homes, we do not want to remain inattentive to requests for new foundations, especially in poorer countries. And so, trusting completely in God’s Providence and the assistance of our benefactors, we have recently founded three new Homes, two in India and one in Peru. We are also in the process of preparing for a new foundation in the Philippines.”

“The needs of the elderly all over the world have a special place in our hearts and we desire to go everywhere with the flame of charity that Jeanne Jugan passed on to us. The following words of Pope Francis express well what we hope to live: ‘The elderly are our roots, our history; they gave us our faith and traditions, the sense of belonging to a homeland. Let us thank them.’”

Mother General again thanked the Institute and its members, together with the invited guests, concluding, “This award compels us to work with greater enthusiasm in our beautiful vocation.”