125 years of caring for the elderly

25 September 2013 07:53 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor celebrates 125 years of loving service to the elderly poor of Sri Lanka on 8 December 2013. The congregation, which was formed by Saint Jeanne Jugan, who is aptly called a “Saint for our time”,  is spread over 31 countries presently with 191 homes but it had a humble & unpretentious beginning. The Little Sisters rely on Divine Providence as they do not own any Properties except the Home and the land on which it is build. They do not have any investments nor do they accept payments from the residents. They go begging from house to house and live solely on alms and donations from generous benefactors.



"The home in Maradana was located in the buildings provided for the purpose more than 125 years ago. With the passage of time the buildings were getting dilapidated and uninhabitable. But once again the trust of the Little Sisters in Gods providence has very bountifully provided them with the needed buildings. The new building is very modern and well equipped. It provides almost a luxury life for the inmates who are cared for in Gods name."



Early Foundations
St. Jeanne Jugan was a poor French girl born during the French revolution on 25h October 1792 in Cancale, France. Her father who was a fisherman was lost at sea, when she was three and half year’s old. She had to undergo much difficulty during her childhood and teenage years. Jeanne was 18 years old, when a young sailor in her home town in Cancale asked her to marry him. She told him, “God wants me for Himself; he is keeping me for a work which is yet unknown, for a work which is not yet founded”


Commencement of the Congregation
It was on a winter’s day in 1839 that Jeanne Jugan heeded the call of the Lord and took the decisive step, which changed her life and the lives of thousands of others. That day when she encountered Anne, a poor, blind ,partially paralyzed and homeless old woman, her life was no longer her own. When she carried Anne up the winding stairs leading to her rented room, placed her in her own bed and shared her food with her, she knew that this was just the beginning.


God will help us, the work is His. (J J)
It was not an impulsive gesture of momentary sympathy, Jeanne was aware that there would be no turning back, when she bent over that old lady, it was the end of almost 30 years of searching. That day she recognized “God’s Call” and at that moment gave a complete and radical gift of herself to Christian apostolic action. Jeanne knew that she was carrying our Lord Jesus in her arms. She would later tell the novices “you will find Christ in Prayer, in community and in the Poor”.
During the lifetime of the foundress, many homes of the little sisters have been opened in Europe, North Africa and the USA, At the time of her death at the Mother House in St Pern in France in 1879, the congregation numbered 2400 with the Little Sisters caring for the aged poor of all denominations in 10 different countries of Europe, Africa & America. The Congregation became truly missionary on November 30, 1882 when eight sisters arrived in Calcutta, India and in 1888 in Colombo.


Arrival in Sri Lanka
Seven little sisters sailed from France by the S.S. Oxus on November 18, 1888 and reached Colombo on  December 7, 1888. They were met in the harbour by the then Parish Priest of Pettah Church, who conducted them to Lucia’s Cathedral Kotahena. The Residence of the Archbishop, Rt.Rev. Christopher Bonjean. The homes of the Little Sisters were situated at Darley Rd Maradana. The upkeep and the rent of the home for the 1 year were donated by the generosity of a Maltese Merchant Mt Asphar. He also paid the fares of the journey of the Little Sisters from France to Colombo.

When establishing the Home in 1888 Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev Christopher Bonjean in his address to the devotees of Colombo stated, ‘We place the Little Sisters, with all the poor they may receive, under your charitable vigilant care. We constitute you as their guardian and under Divine Providence, their purveyor sure that our Blessed Lord, whom they personify , will never have to complain of your neglect of them; but that you will all deserve on your last day to be greeted by him with these words;” come ye Blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for I was hungry and you gave me to eat I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you clothed me.(Mathew XXV,34,35,36).

From their humble beginnings, the congregation in Colombo grew,” in 1890 there were 30 to 40 inmates old men and women whose joy and happiness are the admiration of all.  As the old people increased and there was no more room to receive anymore, the property which was rented up to 1893 was purchased at a cost of Rs 30000. It contained around five acres and it was necessary to borrow to make this payment. In the month of August the same year, building operations were started on a block destined for men and estimated at a cost of Rs.10500. The following year the new ward was already occupied when Mgr. Melizan the new Archbishop of Colombo made his visit to the Home and gave his blessings to the new building, the community then counted 10 sisters having the care o 60 old people, Sinhalese, Tamils, and Burghers all living together in the greatest harmony.


“New St Mary’s Home” in Colombo
The home in Maradana was located in the buildings provided for the purpose more than 125 years ago. With the passage of time the buildings were getting dilapidated and uninhabitable. But once again the trust of the Little Sisters in Gods providence has very bountifully provided them with the needed buildings. The new building is very modern and well equipped. It provides almost a luxury life for the inmates who are cared for in God’s name. The Little Sisters strive to provide the best for them for they believe that when something is done for God’s poor it is being done for God. And for him they cannot do anything short of the best.

The new home was inaugurated and blessed on 8 December 2004 by the Rt Rev. Dr. Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo.

At present there are 98 elderly people of all religions and races living in the home in Colombo. The community at present comprise of 16 sisters. Members of the association of Jeanne Jugan and paid workers assist them in the daily care of the elderly.

The sisters of the congregation under the direction of the Mother Superior assures that the admission of a new resident is done in a manner to facilitate the new resident to settle in the new home without any difficulty

The kitchen sister together with the staff strives to provide well balanced meals to all the residents and also sees to the needs of special diets for those who have medical recommendations’. The residents’w clothes are washed and ironed by the staff of the laundry and linen room under the supervision of the sister in charge.The nursing sister assures that the two nurses attached to the Pharmacy sees to the medical needs of the residents. The sister in charge of each service together with a team of workers assures that the daily needs of the residents are met and that they are comfortable and happy. The maintenance of the house and buildings, the general administration and the accounts of the home are done under the responsibility of a sister in charge. The gardeners maintain the beautiful gardens and the general workers assure the cleanliness of the bedrooms and common places. The providence of God continues to manifest to the Little Sisters through the assistance of benefactors both spiritual and material. The volunteers such as Doctors, Dentists, and Animators of various activities to entertain and make the elderly happy as well as the association of Jeanne Jugan through their services help to further Jeanne Jugan’s vision of hospitality to the elderly.

The unfailing trust of the Sisters in St Joseph, their Patron Saint has helped them to continue the work which was started 125 years ago with the vision which is “To promote the role of the elderly and to assist the elderly themselves as sources of wisdom and witness of hope and love, so that all recognize the valuable contribution the elderly make to society and to the church.”

The sole desire of the congregation is to do, what Jeanne Jugan would do today.

‘Making the elderly happy, that is what counts.”

If you would like to enrich your own life, and the life of the needy elderly through volunteering, please contact -
Little Sisters of the Poor, 204, T B Jayah Mawatha, Colombo 10.Telephone 2693878.
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