Friday, November 16, 2007

Kudos and Thanks to the Little Sisters of the Poor

Photo from Cardinal Seán O'Malley’s Blog:
Cardinal Seán with the Sisters
at the Jeanne Jugan Residence

Have you ever walked into a nursing home and been immediately rocked back onto your heels by the smell... That unmistakable smell that is a melange of burned food, disinfectant, excrement, sputum, and decay? Have you ever walked into one and heard the lonely cries and the blaring TVs? Have you seen the disinterested staff and the residents left slumped over semi-conscious in wheelchairs in the hall?

Not so, not in the home for the elderly poor run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville. It is spectacularly clean, pleasant, well-heated and lit, full of activity and tender care ministered by the sisters, many of whom are quite elderly themselves. Their special charism, based upon that of their foundress Blessed Jeanne Jugan, is to tend to the elderly poor, and to show them attention, compassion, dignity and meticulous care, all the way until natural death. Says the Mother Superior of the house, Mother Celine Vadukkoot, "We refute euthanasia and put great value in doing all that we can to respect and protect their life… until God calls them to death.”

Mother Celine Thérèse Vadukkoot,
with a couple of the residents

Last year I put up a post about my daughters and some of their friends who work as volunteers in the home. They call themselves the Jeanne Jugan Juniors. One Saturday a month, they go in to work with the elderly and to provide companionship for them. Mother Celine is a holy, forceful, and dynamic woman. She is not one to say "no" to, nor would you even want to. If Mother Celine asks people to jump, people ask how high... Furthermore, if you have a family member in residence, Mother Celine will remind you if you haven't been by to visit for a while, and if she doesn't, someone else will.

A couple of mornings ago, at approximately 3:30 AM, my wife's great-aunt passed away at the Jeanne Jugan residence, about two weeks shy of her 98th birthday.

They made sure that Anne was there in time, along with a bevy of the sisters, who tirelessly and faithfully stuck with Aunt Helen with their prayers and ministrations until the very end. Anne even was able to take a bit of humor out of it, noting that it may have been possible that Aunt Helen was drowned under all of the Holy Water that was being sprinkled on her. Said the Irish-born Sister Marcel, "Ah, well y'know, it keeps the devil away... He's always hanging around, looking to snatch souls right until the last minute.... Didja see how she went up to heaven when we finished that last Hail Mary?" Yes, thought Anne, but perhaps not cooincidentally, as the sisters had been praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy relentlesly and non-stop for hours. :-)

I joke a little bit, but God Bless them. Helping people to gracefully exit from this world, loved and not alone, is what they do, and they do it very well. The sisters are wonderful, and we thank them and praise them for everything they do. Please pray for them, for their vocations (they've had quite a few lately), and for the soul of Aunt Helen.

Scenes from the life of Blessed Jeanne Jugan


crystal said...

My grandmother was in a nursing home and it was the bad kind - I wish she could have stayed in a place like the one you've described. Prayers for the Sisters and Aunt Helen.

Jeff said...

Hi Crys,

They can be pretty bad, can't they? Sorry to hear that about your granmother. The LSP really do a great job. Aunt Helen was really something. We really thought she'd make it to 100 at one time. She was on her own and taking care of herself well into her late eighties.

crystal said...

My grandmother had Parkinson's disease and she lived with my aunt but when she had a stroke, my aunt moved her to the bad nursing home. She was there for a while and then my mom took her for about 6 months, but it was too much for her and she found another nursing home. This one was better - it was a regular house with about 8 patients living there, but it was still a pretty sad place.

cowboyangel said...

Thanks, Jeff, for posting on these wonderful women and their important ministry. And that's great that your daughter volunteers with them.

Sorry to hear about Anne's great aunt. But it sounds like she had a good full life, especially if you thought she'd make it to a 100.

My own great aunt worked in a nursing home until she was almost 80. She was a special woman.

Thankfully, it seems like there has been an effort in the last decade or so to create better care facilities for our elders. Though many people don't have the money for them. But at least we're moving in the right direction - and it takes efforts like that of the Little Sisters of the Poor to make it happen.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

Thanks. By and large, Helen had a very good life. She was a teacher, and a very good one. She made her own way in life, travelled around the world, saw everything she wanted to see, and had a strong faith. Great storyteller...

God bless your aunt for putting in that good work, even until her own advanced years.

As you point out, it's good that steps are being taken in the right direction in providing care for the elderly. I hope we can keep doing that before this economy goes completely belly-up, especially since it is so hard for people to provide care on their own nowadays.

My father-in-law is about the last one left in that generation before us. We hope to have him living with us soon.

Steve Bogner said...

The Little Sisters have a home here in Cincinnati too, and they have my support most every time they ask for it! They do a wonderful job.

Paula said...

It is great to read that this kind of places exist. Thank you Jeff, for this post. I am happy to hear that your daughters volunteer there.:-).

Liam said...

Nice post, Jeff. My condolences for Aunt Helen -- but it seems like she did things the right way.

Jeff said...

Hi Steve,

Yeah, I've noticed that they are in more places than I thought. I'm glad to hear you've put in some work for them.


Thanks as always for your prayers and kind words. :-) I'm very proud of the girls, as you an imagine.


Thank you as well. How are things going? Getting right back into the charters and the old routine?