Who is she?
Who is St. Jeanne Jugan whose Feast we celebrate at the end of the month, and who is held in such great regard by all the Little Sisters, Residents, and so many other people around the world? How can one women, poor, semi-literate, in an obscure part of France, have such an impact that her name today, 222 years after her birth, 175 years after the foundation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, is known all over the world?
Through images of her, we want you to get to know her better. Images of her were made: paintings, sculptures, icons, and even tapestries. Some of these images are little known, but deserve a greater audience, and this will enable us to explore her spirituality and her relevance for the world in which we live today.
Theone authentic picture of Jeanne Jugan (her religious name was Sister Mary of the Cross) is a little painting by Leon Brune, a French painter, who painted it in 1855, upon the request of the Guerin de La Grasserie family, benefactors of the home in Rennes, who knew Sister Mary of the Cross very well.
Leon Brune had painted the portraits of the two young daughters of the family, and he was asked to do one of Jeanne Jugan, whom the family held in great veneration.
The painter did a sketch, without having any posing sessions. Then, according to the family’s desire, he painted the picture in small dimensions (9 inches by 12 ½ inches).
This painting had a place of honor in their home up until 1972, the year it was bequeathed to the Congregation by the last descendant of the family, an unmarried elderly woman, Miss Renee Guerin de La Grasserie, who was ill.
Hospitalized in Dinard, and far sicker than she herself realized, she informed the Motherhouse, for she desired to give them the family treasure which was so dear to her.
She made her final decision only when she was convinced that Sister Mary of the Cross had been given back her rightful place in the Congregation as Mother and Foundress.
On May 26, 1972, Mother General Marie Antoinette de la Trinite appointed two Little Sisters from the Motherhouse to go and see the sick woman.
It was a moment of deep emotion indeed for them when they were given the painting, well-wrapped in brown paper, and when they saw the face of Sister Mary of the Cross for the first time!
Miss Guerin de La Grasserie died in the hospital of Dinard on May 31st, five days after giving this precious heritage to the Congregation. On August 16th, Mother General Marie Antoinette de la Trinite went to the office of Mr. Connan, a notary in Dinan, to sign the act authorizing the legacy of Miss Renee
Guerin de La Grasserie to be handed over to the Congregation.
Since the painting needed to be restored, this work was done in Paris. The original wooden frame was preserved and a good photographic reproduction was taken of the painting. The original painting with a new frame is in the office of our Mother General.
The photo, with the original frame, is in the Motherhouse parlor, called the “Parloir Soeur Marie de la Croix.”