St. Jean Jugan

The site of the Archdiocese of Denver has a story by George Weigel about St. Jeanne Jugan.   I confess I don’t know much about her.  It would be nice to know

I happily send a biretta tip to engaging Creative Minority Report for this. o{]:¬)

By George Weigel

During the brutally hot summer of 2003, thousands of French vacationers remained on holiday rather than returning home to bury their recently deceased parents, who had died from the extraordinary heat and were being stashed in air-conditioned storage lockers. Those acts of filial impiety cast into sharp relief the October canonization of Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Born during the virulently anti-Catholic French Revolution, Jeanne Jugan learned early in her life that fidelity to Christ and his Church could be costly. A history of the period of her childhood sums things up neatly: “In spite of the persecution, the people of Cancale kept the faith. During dark nights, in an attic or a barn, or even in the middle of the countryside, the faithful gathered together, and there in the silence of the night, the priest would offer the Eucharist and baptize the children. But this happiness was rare. There were so many dangers.

Jeanne Jugan knew poverty as well as persecution, and developed a marked sensitivity to the humiliation that those who have fallen through the cracks of society’s net of solidarity can feel. She declined an offer of marriage because, as she put it, “God…is keeping me for a work which is not yet known, for a work which is not yet founded.” That work came into clear focus when, at age 47, [… think about that…] she met an elderly, blind and sick woman, whom she took into her care; from that seemingly random encounter was born a tremendous work of charity. The congregation of women religious she founded dedicated itself to the care of the poor and elderly—and supported itself by begging, with the foundress, Jeanne Jugan, as chief beggar.  The Little Sisters of the Poor spread rapidly throughout Europe, America and Africa, but the going was never easy for Jeanne Jugan.

In 1843, Jeanne Jugan’s re-election as superior was quashed by the community’s priest-advisor, Father Augustin Marie Le Pailleur. Refusing to contest what others would have deemed an injustice (but which she thought to be the will of God), Jeanne Jugan accepted this curious decision and went on the road, supporting her sisters by begging. For the last 27 years of her life, she lived at the order’s motherhouse in retirement, again according to the orders of Father Le Pailleur; her role as foundress was never acknowledged during her lifetime. Yet the novelist [get this] Charles Dickens could write, after meeting Jeanne Jugan, that “there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.

To enter a house of the Little Sisters of the Poor today is to recapture what Dickens experienced. Elderly men and women with no one else to care for them are given exquisite attention; the dignity of every patient is honored, no matter how difficult that dignity may be to discern amidst the trials of senility and disease. The Little Sisters of the Poor and their patients are living reminders that there are no disposable human beings; that everyone is a someone for whom the Son of God entered the world, suffered and died; and that we read others out of the human family at our moral and political peril. [our moral and political peril…  This is why we cannot, with the Kmiec Catholics, the Kennedy/Kerry/Sebelius/Pelosi/Biden Catholics, think that we can leave the unborn as secondary to other social projects.]

Yet that is the temptation facing the United States, and every other affluent society confronting a graying population, longer life expectancies, and spiraling medical costs. Where this temptation can lead is brutally displayed in the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal for years; and as the late Father Richard John Neuhaus said of such travesties as the Dutch “death with dignity” laws, what is permitted will soon become mandatory. That is precisely what has happened in Holland and indeed wherever euthanasia is legally permitted.

St. Jeanne Jugan, Sister Marie of the Cross in her religious life, is thus a powerful—and badly needed—intercessor for all who would defend the gift of life from conception until natural death.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Fine article.

Thank you, St. Jeanne Jugan.

A miracle through the intercession of St. Jeanne Jugan:

Cure of Doctor Edward Erwin GATZ
of an Adenocarcinoma of the Oesophagus

Doctor Edward GATZ is a retired anaesthetist who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, in the United States of America. He was born on 19th April 1937 in O’Neil, Nebraska.

At the age of 51 he began to feel dyspeptic (digestive) problems with a loss of weight and the appearance of growths on his hands. The diagnosis was interpreted as a paraneoplastic syndrome due to an occult cancer.

An endoscopy on 9th January 1989 revealed the presence of a cancerous lesion in the lower part of the oesophagus. Dr Gatz was hospitalised at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and had surgery on 18th January 1989 for a partial oesophago-gastrectomy. The biopsy showed a 3rd degree adenocarcinoma, and the examination specified that there was an aneuploid tumour. Doctor Gatz was advised to have chemotherapy but he refused. He also refused to have radiotherapy.

On the day that Dr Gatz’ cancer was diagnosed his wife spoke with a priest, Fr Richard D McGloin SJ to tell him about her husband’s illness and to seek some consolation. This priest encouraged Mrs Gatz to pray, and gave her the novena prayer to Blessed Jeanne Jugan, whom he knew through the Little Sisters of the Poor, since he had formerly been their chaplain at their Home in Milwaukee, and whom he held in veneration. Along with him, Mrs Gatz began to pray to Jeanne Jugan every day, even after the check-up on 8th March.

In fact, the first endoscopic examination took place on 8th March 1989. The biopsy showed the presence of chronic gastritis, but no signs of recurrence of the tumour.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Nan says:

    If you’re in the neighborhood, on Sunday at 2:00, there’s a Mass for the Little Sisters of the Poor with Archbishop Nienstedt.

  2. P.McGrath says:

    The following was told to me by a religious priest whose own mother was cared for by the Little Sisters:

    A quite well-to-do man, hearing of the “exquisite attention” that the Little Sisters gave to the elderly in their care, dearly wanted his own mother to have that same care. He offered the Little Sisters huge sums just for that.

    The Little Sisters turned him down.

    Their reasoning? If we give this bed to a rich old woman, it means we will have to deny a bed to a poor old woman. And that would go against everything we stand for.

  3. JosephMary says:

    The Little Sisters of the Poor do incredible work! I know my dear 86 year old confessor is looking to go and live with them and do spend the end of his days there. While he is still healthy, he will be chaplain and if he becomes more frail and needs care himself, they will be there. His older sister already lives with the Little Sisters.

  4. FrCharles says:

    My vocation director’s mother was in the care of the Little Sisters when I was applying to the Order. He had us read a book on St. Jeanne, Humble, So as to Love More, I think it was called. We discussed it with a lot of fruit and challenge in those discerning days. One of the friars here at our old friars’ home moved out at age 93 and went to live with the Little Sisters, saying that he was bored here.

  5. mattmcg says:

    That quote from Dickens is all the more poignant considering his visceral dislike of things Catholic.

  6. Antiquarian says:

    Thank you Father Z, for the attention paid to the Little Sisters. I can’t say much to defend them against any detractors, I suppose, but I can say that here in DC, their nursing home for the impoverished elderly– named for St Jeanne– is a virtual dynamo of holiness. I have known several people who were cared for there, including the widow of my parish’s organist, and the former pastor of a nearby parish. The dignity and love with which the residents are treated is something to be envied.

  7. Malta says:

    I have a nice story about them. Those selfless nuns, through their selfless example convinced my grandmother, in Gallup NM, to join the Catholic faith at 85 years old! I held her as she was baptized (no one was sure whether she had ever been so) confirmed, and received her first communion.

    It was a momentous event on a personal level, but it also is illustrative of the power that the nun-in-veil has on the psyche. You can be a butch nun leading women to abortion, but until you habit yourself, you are not really a nun.

    A recent letter to the editor in New Oxford Review, written by a protestant, ran something like this: “I still remember those nuns from my childhood in the 50’s,” as a kind group of women schooling and serving. Hollywood has ravaged the good names of the sisters who worked for so long and so hard on our land.

    In New Mexico, Jean Baptiste Lamy culled nuns from france, including his niece, and they set up the schools in that once great land. Those sisters selflessly built school after school. They did great things with little resources-but were always habited; see, that’s the key! They went to serve, not to broadcast their silly selves as unhabited media-mongering nunce’s, I mean nun’s do today.

  8. MikeM says:

    I recently had some interactions with some Little Sisters of the Poor. They were great! They are a great model for Catholics everywhere. :)

  9. MikeJ9919 says:

    I am curious about this miracle. I had been under the impression (from something I heard many years ago) that the Church was generally reluctant to attribute cancer to miraculous cures, because science is aware of the tendency of cancer to go spontaneously into remission (across many types of cancer and many different circumstances) though they have not yet explained the mechanism. Is that inaccurate? Does the Church consider cancer just as it would any other disease? Or is there an extra screening process? Does anyone know?

  10. tioedong says:

    You can probably answer MikeJ9199’s question about the church’s criteria, but as a doc, spontaneous remission of an adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is unheard of (remissions of kidney tumors have been reported, and various lymphoma type cancers have been known to disappear after a viral infection, but not this type of cancer).


    The “aneuploid” referred to is a tumor marker…if there is high aneuploidy, your prognosis is worse. Usually we try to remove stage 3 cancer of the esophagus, but the prognosis is poor since it means local invasion of the tumor…

    so I’d consider this a miracle, for what it’s worth….

  11. daniwcca says:

    As an almost 40 year old, who sometimes thinks she hasn’t found her mission, this was a rather inspiring story! Thank you Fr. Z. Every day I gain something when I visit your site.

  12. Rose in NE says:

    Dr. and Mrs. Gatz spoke at our parish last week. From what I understand, Dr. Gatz was given only six months to live. As tioedong said in a previous post, there is no spontaneous remission of the type of cancer Dr. Gatz had. Dr. Gatz also chose not to have any sort of radiation therapy or drug treatment. This is, I think, why the Church considered it a miraculous cure. The whole process to have the miracle confirmed took many years.

  13. bookworm says:

    I imagine the Little Sisters of the Poor have really LONG waiting lists to get into their homes :-)

    How are they doing vocation-wise? I hope they have long waiting lists to get into their convents too!

  14. thomas tucker says:

    That’s all well and good but this case of the esophageal cancer sure doesn’t sound like a miracle to me,
    given that he had it removed by surgery. That alone does cure some people.

  15. mpm says:

    Comment by tioedong — 30 October 2009 @ 2:23 am

    How does the church discern miraculous cures? She brings in physicians, including specialists if necessary, who study the evidence and render opinons, just as tioedong has done here.

    If there is disagreement, either more information is sought, or it is not received as “miraculous”.

  16. Since you know better than the doctor who just posted, and since you’re so concerned, you obviously want to go read the Vatican files on the miracle. Well, fine. That stuff is all public in successful causes, so why not find out for yourself?

    His insurance company thought it was a miracle, sure enough.

    More about Dr. Gatz’s miracle, from St. Anthony’s Messenger:

    Dr. Gatz’s prognosis was so poor that a partial esophagogastrectomy was simply a palliative measure. In a May 2009 telephone interview, Dr. Gatz recalled, “I had begun to prepare for my final exam.” After all, he had outlived both his parents already. He had seen his mother struggle with cancer for two years before her death at 45. He had been anointed three times.

    The doctor began to put his affairs in order, trying to smooth the path for his wife and son. He was not praying for a cure. He was in a “state of peacefulness and calm,” he says.

    His wife was not as resigned. She called their friend Father McGloin for consolation and advice. He recommended the novena prayer to Blessed Jeanne Jugan. He began to pray for his friend’s cure that very day and Jeanne Gatz joined in as soon as the prayer arrived in the mail.

    Seven or eight weeks after surgery, some visible symptoms associated with Dr. Gatz’s cancer disappeared and he had a sense of “something leaving me.” Subsequent exams showed no evidence of cancer. Five years after his surgery, he indeed had a final exam of sorts in which he was declared to be cancer-free. Early on, he had decided against both radiation and chemotherapy, so those treatment regimens had not contributed to his renewed health.

    After two and a half years, the doctor’s disability insurers began to question the initial diagnosis and required thorough medical review to rule out error or fraud. That review would serve as convincing evidence later.

    Jeanne Gatz speculates that her husband was the recipient of this miracle because his medical background enabled him to document his case in such a credible and exact manner, both on paper and in person. He is glad to do that out of gratitude, but he compares himself to the centurion’s servant (see Luke 7:1-10). His wife and his Jesuit friend are the centurions requesting the cure, Jesus is the healer and Dr. Gatz is the servant who was healed.

    Each year of improved health has added to the marvel. After 13 such years, Dr. and Mrs. Gatz asked Father McGloin whether they should report this cure. Upon reflection, the Jesuit agreed. Through guests who had enjoyed the hospitality of the Little Sisters in Kansas City and subsequently of Dr. and Jeanne Gatz in Omaha, they learned the name of Mother Marguerite McCarthy. Jeanne Gatz called her…

    New Jersey-based Passionist Father Dominic Papa, vice postulator of Jugan’s cause, examined the evidence and interviewed people. Officials of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, did the same. It took three years of Vatican discernment until, on December 6, 2008, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decreed Dr. Gatz’s cure to be a miracle.”

  17. More about the miracle from the Omaha newspaper:

    You gotta love doctors. Gatz’ own partner told people that “Ed’s dead.” And Gatz’ mother died of colon cancer.

  18. irishgirl says:

    I read that book on St. Jeanne Jugan, ‘Humble, So As To Love More’. I found it on the bookshelf in a room next to our adoration chapel.

    I’d rather see stories on habit-wearing nuns who quietly and without fuss do Our Lord’s work, than on a so-called ‘sister’ with no habit at an abortion mill!

  19. bnaasko says:

    Archbishop Chaput celebrated a special mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of St. Jeanne Jugan last Sunday. It was wonderful. Every year I get to play Santa Claus when my Knights of Columbus Council has a Christmas Party for the residents of the Sisters’ home in Denver. There is truly something special about them.

  20. MikeJ9919 says:

    Thank you, tioedong, I appreciate the information.

  21. Wasn’t this the congregation of sisters involved in Italy’s counterpart to the Terry Schiavo case a year or two ago? The girl was in a vegetative state after suffering some accident, and her father fought to “let her die.” The sisters who were taking care of her wanted to go on taking care of her and tried to get guardianship of her. She eventually died — I think before the final disposition of her case.

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