SAINT JEANNE ANTIDE THOURET (1765-1826), religious and foundress
Today, the Church honors Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, foundress of the Sisters of Charity. As a young nun, she worked tirelessly for the faith amidst persecution during the French Revolution in the 18th century.
Jeanne was born in Sancy, France, on November 27, 1765 to a poor family, and her mother died when Jeanne was only fifteen years old. She took on many of the family responsibilities, including helping her father raise her younger siblings, until she joined the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris in 1787 at the age of twenty-two, working among the sick in various hospitals.
During the French Revolution, when many priests and religious were killed, she was ordered by the government to return home to a secular life. Sister Jeanne refused, and, when she tried to escape the authorities, she was beaten so badly that it took months for her to recover.
However, this did not deter her from continuing the work as a Daughter of Charity – caring for the sick, wounded and the poor as a result of the Revolution. Sister Jeanne returned on foot to Sancy where, in addition to her normal works of charity, she opened a small school for girls.
In the late 1790’s, the government repression forced her to flee to Switzerland. Once there, she teamed up with other exiled religious and clergy to minister to the sick. However, due to anti-Catholic prejudice, the group was forced to move on to Germany.
Sister Jeanne later returned to Landeron, Switzerland, where she met with her Order’s Vicar-General, who asked her to found a school and hospital. She accepted, and on April 11, 1799, she opened a hospital and a free school for the education of girls. She also opened a soup kitchen to feed the poor. And thus began what is now known as the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide, an international community in the Vincentian tradition.
The congregation soon expanded, and was operating other schools and hospitals in France, Switzerland, and Italy, and eventually moved into prison ministry. The Order received papal approval in 1819, and this legacy continues to this day in responding to the needs of the poor. The Order arrived in the United States in 1932 where they ministered to Italian immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the height of the depression.
Some 27 years after the founding of her community, Mother Jeanne, as she was now known, died on August 24, 1826, of natural causes in Naples, Italy. She was beatified on May 23, 1926, and canonized a saint on January 14, 1934 by Pope Pius XI.
We commemorate her feastday on May 23.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, vincentian.oblates.com.au, filles-de-la-charite.org and scsja.org/ourfoundress)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Women ~ ministering to the underprivileged)
“Lord God, You teach us that the Commandments of Heaven are summarized in love of You and love of our neighbor. By following the example of Saint Jeanne in practicing works of charity, may we be counted among the blessed in Your Kingdom.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”