Local community celebrates canonization

First slide

WASHINGTON - Sister Camille Hampton of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington didn't mind waking up at 3 a.m. Eastern time Oct. 11 - because the occasion was so joyous she could barely wait for the hour to arrive.

With a few of her fellow sisters in their order's residence in Washington, the sprightly director of postulants eagerly viewed a television screen to watch live coverage of Pope Benedict XVI canonizing five new saints, one of whom was the foundress of her order, St. Jeanne Jugan.

In an interview later in the day, Sister Camille couldn't contain her enthusiasm as she talked about the canonization ceremony in Rome and what it means to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"We all feel united, heart and soul, today as we celebrate the canonization of our mother, Jeanne Jugan," she said, as members of her religious order and the elderly they care for prepared to attend a special Mass in their home's chapel in honor of the canonization.

"It's really our hope that the more well-known Jeanne Jugan is, and the greater her love for the elderly is also known, there will be a greater respect and a greater concern for the lives of the elderly," Sister Camille told Catholic News Service.

Born in northern France in 1792, St. Jeanne formed a small prayer community and, in 1839, brought home a sick and blind elderly widow - giving the woman her own bed.

Caring for the abandoned elderly became the primary focus of her religious order, and remains so today for the approximately 2,700 Little Sisters of the Poor.

She officially established the order in 1842, died in 1879, and today the Little Sisters of the Poor serve more than 13,000 elderly residents in 202 homes around the world.

As he declared her a saint Oct. 11, Pope Benedict said that in view of her service to the elderly, St. Jeanne was a beacon for modern societies, which he said still need to rediscover the unique contributions the aged have to offer.

"It's a gift of the church to our congregation," Sister Camille said. "We're very grateful that our mother has been recognized as a saint. It has really united each Little Sister, one unto the other."

She also hopes the canonization will be a source of an increase in vocations for their order.

"Women are going to look at Jeanne Jugan and see a saint," Sister Camille said. "They are going to know that this is a true path to sanctity. That you can be a holy Little Sister of the Poor by simply caring for and loving the elderly, as if they were the person of Jesus Christ."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009