Learning to trust in Providence
by Sr Constance Veit, l.s.p.
For the past year we Little Sisters of the Poor have been celebrating the 150thanniversary of our Congregation’s arrival in the United States. Our sesquicentennial year will officially close on August 30, the feast day of our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan. This anniversary has been a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the experiences of our pioneering Little Sisters and to become acquainted with the many people who helped them.
As I read through the annals of our first communities I recognized a pattern. Beginning in August of 1868, small bands of mostly young, non-English speaking Little Sisters bravely set sail from France destined for one American city after another — first Brooklyn, then Cincinnati, New Orleans, Baltimore and Philadelphia — the wave of charity which had begun in the humble heart of our foundress quickly spread across this vast nation.
These Little Sisters would arrive at their destination with only the most basic provisions, taking possession of empty, often dirty or rundown buildings that had been procured for them. They would begin by placing statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph that they had preciously carried from the motherhouse on a mantle and then kneeling in prayer to ask God’s blessings on their new dwelling and those who would make it their home. Thanks to hard work and the generosity of local citizens, these empty building would soon be cleaned and furnished with everything needed to care for the destitute elderly who would arrive at their doorstep.