The Little Sisters of the Poor have served for more than 100 years in the Diocese of Providence, ministering to the elderly at the St. Jeanne Jugan Residence in Pawtucket. In addition to their vocation of prayer, the religious sisters demonstrate the corporal works daily of mercy in their care of the sick and the dying.
“Their witness to charity and compassion in their daily work is heroic, yet often hidden from the world. Many Catholics in the diocese are unaware of the sisters’ longtime presence at St. Jeanne Jugan, let alone the good they do every day for the Kingdom,” said Father Timothy Reilly, chancellor of the Diocese of Providence.
Sister Mercy Stella Theresa, Mother Superior, shared that when she and her fellow sisters found out that they would be receiving a Lumen Gentium Award for Community Service and Charitable Outreach, they were truly surprised and humbled.
“We don’t like to be in the spotlight, but this is for the glory of God. We are excited,” said Sister Mercy. “The elderly are precious to society, they are the core of our society. Taking care of them is our mission as sisters. It is a gift from God.”
Sister Mary Agnes, administrator at St. Jeanne Jugan, explained that caring for the elderly is so needed in this day and age.
“Age is irrelevant,” she said. “It’s being able to give them a life that’s happy, that they have something to look forward to and that they have security. I had a resident that came in and said ‘now I know I’m home safe.’ They don’t have to worry now. They will be with us until God calls them home.”
The sisters explained that they are so grateful when they hear residents tell them that they feel safe and that the sisters have fostered a space that feels like home, surrounded by loved ones.
“You feel like you are fulfilling your mission and your day’s work is rewarding,” said Sister Mercy. “Sometimes days are very hectic, but we are doing this for them so they don’t have to worry about it. We want to protect them from any worries.”
There are 10 Little Sisters of the Poor serving in Rhode Island, and Sister Mercy shared that there is always a need for volunteers — a very important way that the faithful can support the mission of the Little Sisters.
“Whatever they can do with their time,” she said. “Just to sit with the residents, hold their hand and pray with them. The core of our calling is that we never want them to be alone when they are dying.”
The Little Sisters have also recently began a monthly afternoon of service, prayer and community — connecting the residents and Little Sisters of the Poor with young adults.
“We want to connect youth with the elderly,” said Sister Mercy. “Older people have a lot of wisdom that the young people can learn from and the young people have a lot of enthusiasm that brings the life into the house. We want to connect these two generations together.”
Along with their well-deserved Lumen Award, there has been much to rejoice about this year. In August 2018, the Little Sisters of the Poor began a yearlong celebration of a jubilee marking the 150th anniversary of the community’s arrival in the United States. The congregation was founded in France in 1839 when Jeanne Jugan opened her heart and her home to an elderly, blind and paralyzed woman in need. She devoted her life to the care of the elderly poor, establishing a new religious community in the process — the Little Sisters of the Poor. The mission began locally in the Diocese of Providence in 1881.
The Little Sisters of the Poor will soon be honored with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating their 150 years in America, on Saturday, May 4, at 10:30 a.m. in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will join them in celebrating the milestone occasion. For more information, or to RSVP, please visit www.littlesistersofthepoorpawtucket.org or contact the home at 401-723-4314.
— AWARDS BANQUET —
The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 15.
Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Youth Ministry — are asked to register online at dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards.
For more information, please call 401-277-2121.