If God wants it, I want it
Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad” speaks of holiness bestowed in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people. Our Holy Father tells us: Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to His people.
While we host the pilgrim Saint Jeanne Jugan Tapestry, our grateful prayers go out to the seven Little Sisters who first came to America 150 years ago: Sr. Henriette Joseph, Sr. Sidonie Joseph, Sr. Marie des Apotres, Sr. Dorothee, Sr Marie de St Ignace, Sr. Gonzague Marie and Sr. Sainte Enna.
Can you imagine what was going through their minds when they were called to leave Europe and travel to America? One of them, Sr Marie de St Ignace wrote, after receiving her obedience for Brooklyn: “If God wants it, I want it.”
Jeanne Jugan was there to see them off. In 1868 she was still fairly active. Her health only began to weaken in 1873, six years before her death. Jeanne had been in La Tour since 1852 – she knew each one of these seven sisters. She thought of each one with fondness as she waved goodbye. She had seen them grow, she admired their zeal. She whispered an encouraging word to one who looked a little anxious. She thought of the first days of her little work and thanked the good God for all that He had done. She should have been very proud of this growing work, but no, she was only His instrument.
There was great excitement. Our religious family was expanding its horizons! The elderly on another continent would know the love and care of the Little Sisters. Souls would be saved in America; the seeds of vocations would be planted and nurtured!
After more than a two-week voyage on the Napoleon 3rd, our little Sisters arrived in New York -the country’s largest port. The small flame that was kindled in 1839 arrived in America eighteen years before the more grandiose flame in the hand of the Statue of Liberty. Yet the statue’s message “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” could also have been attributed to the Little Sisters, for this was also their message.
Here are a few photos from the earliest days of the Little Sisters in America:
During our welcoming prayer vigil, Kim Bemis (Provincial Staff member) portrayed one of the pilgrim Little Sisters – Sr. Dorothee.
“My name is Sr. Dorothee, I was born in Cologne, Germany. At the age of 41, I received my obedience for Brooklyn. I was a cook all of my life. Making the elderly happy – that is what mattered to me. In Edinburg, Scotland I rec’d the news that my next employment would be the kitchen in a new foundation in Brooklyn – what would they eat in Brooklyn? I asked myself. But quickly I remembered the Father of the Poor would not refuse the prayer of the lowly. He would help me. I would cook, and sometimes beg and always show gratitude and faith by making the elderly happy. They would like my German cooking! And I would give my all for them. For over twenty years I served the Residents and also served as the beggar, I died in Brooklyn at the age of 62. In my obituary they said that I was very dedicated and full of compassion and charity towards the poor whom I loved very much” – I like that. … I hope they say that about you, too!”