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