A photo of an Irish nun quietly collecting money for the elderly at a shopping centre in Dublin over the weekend has drawn reaction on social media.
The photo of Sr. Veronica, who belongs to the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor was snapped by EWTN and RTE journalist and broadcaster Colm Flynn on Saturday, sparking quite the reaction across Facebook and Instagram as people praised the nun for her quiet witness.
The broadcaster said he was walking through Rathmines shopping centre in Dublin when he spotted the little nun sitting alone by a staircase. The journalist said he was drawn to the humble Sister, and took time to speak to her, learning about her incredible life and a life’s work which has spanned many countries.
“People were hurrying by and not paying any attention to her,” he wrote. “So I walked over and said “Hello Sister.” Her name was Sr. Veronica from the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’.
He continued: “We got chatting and I discovered that she had spent almost 10 years working with the poorest people living in desperate conditions in Malaysia. Then she moved to Hong Kong to work with the sick, and then to Singapore to be with those who have the least in society.
“Now in her elder years she is back home in Ireland… and still out collecting money to help care for our elderly…. People like Sr. Veronica go unnoticed in today’s society, they are walked past and ignored. And yet they have quietly devoted their entire lives to being there for those most in need.
“Not for money, not for power, not for fame. They have been incredible ambassadors for Ireland across the world, and the help they have given to others is immeasurable… So thank you Sr. Veronica and all others like you for your years of service to others.
The heart-warming post sparked conversation online regarding the order, with many keen to share their own interactions with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“Love this! All of the many scandals of the church are used by many to abandon their faith, that is very sad. Yes, there have been very bad people (and there always will be) and their actions have relegated to obscurity the good and blessed work of thousands and thousands of nuns and priests. Bless you for your coverage and bless Sr. Veronica,” one social media user wrote underneath the photo.
Many others paid recognition to the work of the nuns, with one user mentioning their international presence.
“The Little Sisters of the Poor run a nursing home in the Bronx NY, they do wonderful work. Thank you all the to all the Little Sisters”.
Many were glad to see the nun going noticed, and the subsequent tribute to her work, with another lady penning:
“Thank you for noticing Sr Veronica, Colm. So many people, probably myself included, walk by, and never find out what a rich history she has with the Little Sisters of the Poor. They do great work”.
Another woman who reacted with the post shared:
“My sister was a little sister until her demise in 2002 , great organisation caring for the elderly”.
“What a lovely post Colm, very well said and a good nudge to all of us who would do well to take note of these reminders. We could all learn a lot from the Sr. Veronicas of this world”
The Little Sisters of the Poor was founded by Jeanne Jugan, a French nun born in Cancale, Brittany, in 1792. She felt the call to care for the many impoverished elderly languishing on the streets of French towns and cities, and so established the congregation to care for the elderly in 1839.
In the winter of 1839, she would meet Anne Chauvin, an elderly woman who was blind, partially paralyzed, and had nobody to take care of her. Jugan brought her home to her apartment and took her in from that day on, giving her bed to the woman while she slept in the attic.
Not long after that, she met two more old women in need of help, and also took them under her wing. By 1841 she had rented a room to provide housing for up to a dozen elderly people. In 1842, she was able to acquire a derelict convent building that could house 40 of the people she had agreed to help. From her astounding acts of charity, and with the go-ahead from her colleagues, the Little Sisters of the Poor was born. She laid out a simple Rule of Life for her new religious community of women, and they would knock on doors daily and ask for food, clothing and money for the women in their care. This would become the centre of Jugan’s life, and she carried out her mission for the next forty years.
During the 1840s, many other young women joined Jugan in her mission to transform the lives of the elderly and the poor. Through begging on the streets, they were able to collect enough money to establish four more homes for their beneficiaries by the late 1840s.
By 1850, over 100 women had joined the congregation.
In Ireland, the Little Sisters of the Poor continue to welcome the elderly of all nationalities and beliefs, stating that they uphold the sacredness of life in all its stages. Through belief in the total care of the elderly, the Sisters have a central mission of responding to their desires and aspirations.
While Jeanne left no writings, with the only written words left from her being those of her signature, the Order she founded continues to live by many of her ‘sayings’ – the advice she gave to novices during the many years she spent with them in the silence of their noviciate.
They reveal a deep-rooted humility and desire to be small in the eyes of the world. Advice given to novices include a call to be “Little, be very little, hidden by humility in all God wants from you, as being only the instruments of his work”.
She would also tell the sisters “it is so good to be poor, to have nothing, to depend on God for everything” and encouraged them, “If God is with us, it will be accomplished”.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are often seen collecting either in factories, markets, houses, and offices across Ireland. The ‘tradition of collecting’ dates right back to the beginnings of the order when Jeanne Jugan relied on the help of others to provide for the growing number of elderly people entrusted to her care.
She asked for financial assistance as well as goods. She came to be recognised on the streets of France by her ‘begging basket’ as it came to be known. The nun always remembered to thank God for what she received, and equally, she never forgot to thank her benefactors and would keep them in her prayers daily.
Later on in her life, she said: “This is why God always blessed me, because I was always thankful to Providence.”
Just as she could not ‘go it alone,’ neither can the sisters today. The Order say that the successful running of their homes is ‘a daily miracle’.
With rising costs, the sisters are assured of God’s providence, manifested in those who give their financial assistance and gifts to the nuns, offer prayers, volunteer, and those who are more closely attached to the Congregation as ‘associates’.
The Sisters have three homes in Ireland where they provide accommodation and care for elderly people: Abbey Road, Waterford, Holy Family Residence in Dublin, and St Brigid’s in Dublin. They also run homes across the UK, including in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol.