Little Sisters mark 150 years in America

Members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, including from left, Sisters Charles Marie of la Trinite Pilz, Marie Catherine du Bon Pasteur McAuley, Constance Veit and Caroline Lasher sang the opening hymn “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption June 22 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their service in the United States. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas,  Record Staff Writer
More than a dozen members of the Little Sisters of the Poor — some in wheelchairs — processed into the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville June 22 to celebrate the congregation’s 150th anniversary in America. It was part of a year-long celebration that began in September 2018.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz who celebrated the liturgy said that the Little Sisters of the Poor have been a “great gift to us.”

“It amazes me that it was in 1839 that the Little Sisters of the Poor did their first act of mercy and 30 years later were smart enough to come to Louisville,” said Archbishop Kurtz eliciting laughter from the congregation.

The Little Sisters of the Poor began in 1839 in France when St. Jeanne Jugan took home and cared for a paralyzed and blind elderly woman.

Other young women started helping St. Jeanne Jugan care for more and more elderly poor and the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor formed shortly after.

The sisters came to Louisville from France just 30 years later, in September of 1869. A year earlier, in September of 1868, the sisters had established their first home in the United States — in Brooklyn.

Giving thanks for the Little Sisters at last weekend’s Mass, Archbishop Kurtz drew attention to the second reading taken from the 11th chapter of first Corinthians and to St. Paul’s writings.
In that chapter of the Bible, St. Paul discusses passing on the faith.

“That’s something that women religious know a lot about,” said the archbishop. He noted that St. Paul also said he’d dedicate his whole life to Christian witness.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, said the archbishop, remind him of St. Paul’s witness.

The archbishop noted that he interviewed Mother Paul Magyar, superior of the community, on his monthly show “Conversations with Archbishop Kurtz.” In that interview, he asked her, “What are the Little Sisters about?”
Mother Paul told him, “ ‘We want to show our love for Jesus.’ ”

Their witness shows in the sisters’ service to the poorest and the frailest of the elderly — “an inspiring mission” which the sisters live out every day, said the archbishop. “We are all the beneficiaries of your living out that great mission,” he told them.

The sisters’ service in Louisville began at 622 S. 10th St., where they established a home for the elderly poor. They served there for 108 years, until a decline in vocations and a deteriorating home brought about its closure and a temporary departure of the sisters.

With the help of local supporters, the sisters returned to Louisville in 1991, opening St. Joseph Home for the Aged, located near Audubon Hospital at 15 Audubon Plaza Drive. The home offers care to nearly 80 low-income elderly men and women.

The sisters now serve in 30 countries around the world.

Archbishop Kurtz said that in celebrating the 150th anniversary “we need to not just give thanks, but be inspired, because there are people this day who yearn to be fed. They yearn to have examples of people who form their lives around the Eucharistic food and who want to follow Jesus.”

Archbishop Kurtz told the sisters that many people attended the anniversary Mass because “of our love for you and because of our admiration of you.”

The archbishop added that he prays young women will be inspired to join the Little Sisters of the Poor and continue their mission — one that’s been “dear to our church and community.”
Archbishop Kurtz closed his homily by thanking the Little Sisters of the Poor “for inspiring us as a church and as a culture,” he said.

The celebration of the sisters’ 150th anniversary will continue throughout the year. An exhibit highlighting the sisters’ work is on display in the Archdiocese of Louisville History Center through October. The center is located in the Patterson Education Center, 424 S. Fifth St., across Fifth Street from the Cathedral of the Assumption.
The sisters will also host a golf scramble in September and a gala on Oct. 9.

For more information on the celebration of the Little Sisters’ 150th anniversary, visit https://www.littlesisters

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