Since attaining sainthood, Jeanne Jugan has been showing up in some unexpected places! In August she took up residence at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska; last week she found a home at an out-of-the-way shrine in Manorville, a small town on Long Island.
The idea of bringing Saint Jeanne to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island was born last year when a delegation of Little Sisters visited the Montfort Fathers’ shrine. Rev. Roy Tvrdik, SMM, the shrine’s director, showed them the newly established “Avenue of the Saints,” (which is actually a footpath through a wooded area), and several Little Sisters began to entertain the idea of bringing Saint Jeanne to the Avenue. Efforts soon got underway to make the dream a reality, procuring a bronze statue of our foundress from Spanish sculptor Angel Acosta.
October 3rd was chosen as “dedication day” in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Jeanne’s beatification. The Montfort Fathers had taken care of having the statue set on a pedestal in the woods, not far from the statues of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Therese of Lisieux. The Little Sisters from Queen of Peace arrived early to arrange potted mums around our Saint; they also placed an expertly rigged veil over the statue. (The white veil included a hook, to which was tied a roll of twine. The twine was then looped over a tree branch overhead. The plan was for Mother Provincial to unveil the statue by pulling and winding the twine, thus raising the veil off the statue. When the time came it worked perfectly!). The day was a bit damp, but the rain held off, thanks to St Joseph’s intercession!
Buses carrying the Little Sisters, Residents and friends from nearly all the homes in the New York province arrived one by one until nearly 200 pilgrims had assembled to honor Saint Jeanne. Mass began a little before noon, with Father Roy as the main celebrant. The Eucharistic Liturgy included many festive elements: the novices’ choir and the accompaniment of flute, violin and clarinet; the use of incense and the inclusion of the relic of Saint Jeanne in the entrance procession. The readings and Mass texts were taken from the Mass of Saint Jeanne Jugan.
At the conclusion of Mass Mother Provincial Margaret Regina thanked everyone for coming, sharing how she found this day a perfect preparation for the Year of Faith about to begin. Since the Shrine usually has Eucharistic adoration on Wednesdays the Blessed Sacrament was exposed at the end of Mass. Then, after a few moments of silence, everyone was given the opportunity to venerate the relic of Saint Jeanne as her litany was sung by the novitiate choir.
After a quick picnic lunch everyone headed to the Avenue of the Saints for the dedication of the new statue. Father Roy introduced the ceremony and then invited our good friend Father Sean Suckiel to read the Gospel of the Beatitudes.
With excitement at a high, Mother Provincial slowly raised the white veil, as planned, revealing the statue of Jeanne Jugan. The fact that everyone is familiar with Angel Acosta’s statue did nothing to lessen the thrill of seeing Saint Jeanne in her new setting of autumn-colored trees. Father blessed the statue with holy water, and then the whole assembly, as the litany of Jeanne Jugan was sung again. Many paused for photos beside the new statue.
There are, no doubt, as many impressions of October 3, 2012 as there were pilgrims at Our Lady of the Island that day — but the family spirit and joy of the day were obvious to all. As an immediate preparation for the Year of Faith, the dedication of Jeanne Jugan’s statue, in the shadow of Our Lady, gave us a privileged opportunity to reflect on the heroic example of these two models of faith.
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