Born on Oct. 25, 1792 in a port city of the French region of Brittany, Jeanne Jugan grew up during the political and religious upheavals of the French Revolution. When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children alone; four died young. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais.
Jeanne worked as a shepherdess, and later as a domestic servant. At age 18, and again six years later, she declined two marriage proposals from the same man. She told her mother that God had other plans, and was calling her to “a work which is not yet founded.”
At age 25, the young woman joined the Third Order of St. John Eudes, a religious association for laypersons founded during the 17th century. Jeanne worked as a nurse in the town of Saint-Servan for six years, but had to leave her position due to health troubles. Afterward she worked for 12 years as the servant of a fellow member of the third order, until the woman’s death in 1835.
In 1837, the forty-five year old Jeanne and a seventy-two year old woman named Francoise Aubert rented part of a humble cottage. They were joined by Virginie Tredaniel, a seventeen year old orphan and the three formed a community of prayer. They taught catechism and assisted the poor. Whatever they had left over from their earnings, they gave to the poor.Read More »