Sister Mary of the Cross, L.S.P., also known as Jeanne Jugan (October 25, 1792 – August 29, 1879), was a French woman well known for her dedication to the elderly poor. She is one of the most famous people of her time. Pope Francis recognized her service. She founded Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization that cares for the elderly worldwide without other resources.
She grew up during the political and religious upheavals of the French Revolution in Cancale, Brittany, the sixth of eight children of Joseph and Marie Jugan. She lost her father at sea four years after she was born. Her mother battled to provide for Jeanne and her siblings while teaching them secretly Catholic principles amid anti-Catholic persecutions at the time.
The Viscountess de la Choue hired Jugan when she was 16 years old. In the midst of refusing twice the same man’s marriage proposal when she was 18 and again six years later, she confessed to her mother that God had other plans for her and called her to “a work that is yet to see fruition.” At age 25, Jugan became an Associate of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, founded by John Eudes.
In 1837, Jugan and Françoise Aubert, a 72-year-old woman, rented part of a small cottage along with Virginie Tredaniel, a 17-year-old orphan, and formed a Catholic community devoted to teaching the catechism and assisting the poor.