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Somerville’s Jeanne Jugan Residence, which is staffed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, was abuzz with excitement and expectation Sept. 6. The phrase, “the archbishop is here, the archbishop is here,” spread among the Sisters standing at the entrance as Archbishop Seán O’Malley’s car pulled up to the home.
Together with approximately 18 of the Little Sisters of the Poor and over 25 priests, the archbishop processed into the nursing home chapel for an opening Mass to celebrate 25 years of care at the Jeanne Jugan Residence. Several residents of the facility, two in wheelchairs, sat in front of the first row of pews, while a number of residents sat with their families or in the choir loft to enjoy the Mass.
The Mother Provincial, Sister Genevieve Regina, LSP, welcomed the archbishop saying “Archbishop, when you entered the front door I hope you felt a jolt of energy, for there is a power, which emanates from this house. It is the power, which comes from prayer, consecration, unity, wisdom and, yes, suffering. It is the power that we are happy to put at your service as you take up your role in this Church of Boston.”
"A few weeks ago the East Coast experienced a power failure because the local units shut off rather than risk the load," she continued. "Consider us an unfailing link in your power grid. The Little Sisters of the Poor are deeply grateful to have an archbishop who understands consecrated life. The residents are delighted that you chose [to make] one of your first visits here."
In his homily, Archbishop O’Malley responded to Mother Genevieve’s analogy. “I just want Mother Genevieve to realize that I had no doubt when I walked in that door that I was in the power grid,” he joked.
Archbishop O’Malley began by noting the years of service the Little Sisters of the Poor have given, not only at Jeanne Jugan Residence, but also at St. Joseph’s Home in Roxbury for 104 years and Holy Rosary Home in Somerville for 89 years.
"If you add them all up, it's 218 years of service of love in these three homes in the loving care of the Little Sisters of the Poor," said the archbishop. "We are very grateful to God for you."
He retold the story of Blessed Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who, at a young age, dedicated her life to caring for the sick, the elderly and the poor in 19th century France.
He emphasized that just as Mary said ‘‘yes’’ to life and to God and bore Jesus Christ, so too did Blessed Jeanne Jugan say ‘‘yes’’ to life when she began her ministry of caring for others.
"Our Holy Father has spoken to us so often and so eloquently about the Gospel of Life. As Catholics it must be the centerpiece of our social gospel," stated Archbishop O'Malley. "The Little Sisters are apostles of the Gospel of Life in a world that promotes abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide."
"The Sisters' ministry proclaims the dignity and importance of every irreplaceable person made in the image and likeness of God... their dignity at every stage of life," he continued. "We all depend on each other and our mission is to care for each other, knowing full well that there are moments, particularly at the beginning and the end of our lives, that we will depend on others to care for us... it's not something that is a burden--that's why we are here--to take care of each other. No one is a burden."
"What the Sisters do here in their homes, and the kind of loving community and the caring for each other that they bring about, certainly brings about so much good in the world."
Among the 110 residents who live in the nursing home, residents Edith Ward and Genevieve Zarzecki, both 88, were overjoyed with the archbishop’s presence at the anniversary celebration.
"It was a beautiful service," said Ward, who has lived at Jeanne Jugan for over 20 years. "It was wonderful to have him here."
"It really hit me," commented Zarzecki, who said she was so moved by the archbishop's words that she cried during the Mass. "He's wonderful. He's going to work awfully hard in the archdiocese."
Father Jim Darcy, pastor of St. James Parish in Medford, who concelebrated the Mass, described it as both “awesome” and “magnificent.” As a seminarian many years ago, Father Darcy used to visit the residents and play bingo. He said he felt honored and privileged to celebrate the Mass marking the Sisters’ anniversary.
"It's the Gospel," he said of the Sisters' dedication to the elderly. "It's the work of the Gospel and the work of Christ continued in a special way."
"It's an exuberant day to receive the blessing of the archbishop, the priests and the diocese," said Mother Superior, Sister Celine Therese Vadukkoot, LSP. "We thank God for giving such a blessing for our home, our residents, our archdiocese, and we are happy and humble to be here in this archdiocese serving the elderly."
After Mass, Archbishop O’Malley blessed a statue of Blessed Jeanne Jugan which stands in the front lawn of the residence. He then distributed rosary beads to the residents before joining them for lunch.