St. Jeanne Delanoue (1666-1736)
Foundress of the Congregation of St Anne de la Providence
JEANNE DELANOUE was born in Saumur, in the valley of the Loire River, on June 18, 1666. She was the youngest in a family of twelve. Her parents owned a business near the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers. Although but six years of age when her father died, she helped her mother run the store in order to maintain the family. Her qualities were remarkable: she was skillful, energetic, and indefatigable, even to the point of keeping the store open on Sundays and holy days.
The future was hers. Her "business" was growing and prospering. It was precisely within this context of success that, at the age of 27, shortly after the death of her mother, an elderly woman, a faithful pilgrim to the shrine of NotreDame-des-Ardilliers, invited Jeanne to consecrate herself to the many poor people of her neighbourhood.
Despite the responsibilities she had accrued, in response to this call which she believed to have come from God, Jeanne turned toward the poor. They assumed more of her time each day than did her clients until finally they became her full-time occupation. Within a short time no longer did the poor await her visits to them, but they came to her. In 1700, she warmly welcomed a child into her home, and soon after she took in the sick, the aged, and the destitute.
With so many needing lodging, the only place for the poor were the grottos hollowed out in the tuff. She made them as comfortable as she could, however it was necessary for her to seek help. Within four years, in 1704, some young girls were interested in helping Jeanne and were even willing to wear a religious habit if she wished them to do so. It was thus that the congregation of Sainte-Anne de la Providence was born. Under this name the constitutions were approved in 1709.
Jeanne Delanoue's tenacity, supported by the dedicated women who worked with her, brought about the foundation of Saumur's first home for the poor (in 1715) - a home which King Louis XIV called for in 1672!
Very quickly her charity spread beyond the limits of Saumur and of her diocese. More than that, already there were forty helpers who were under her direction and who had made the decision to follow her example of self-sacrifice, of prayer, and of mortification.
At her death, August 17, 1736, Jeanne Delanoue left a dozen communities, as well as homes for the poor and schools. "The saint is dead", they said in Saumur.
Everyone could admire her zeal and the work she accomplished in the numerous visits she received and made, but only her closest friends knew about her mortification, her life of prayer and of union with God. It is from this that her untiring charity proceeded. She was attracted toward all those who suffer, but especially those who are poor-and God knows they were many during those sad years of want, of cold, of famine and of war.
The Sisters of Jeanne Delanoue, as they simply call themselves today, number about 400 sisters in France, in Madagascar, and in Sumatra, where they began in 1979.
On November 5, 1947 Pope Pius XII beatified Jeanne Delanoue. In October 31, 1982 Bl. Pope John Paul II singles out for the people of God yet another saint, Saint Jeanne Delanoue.
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