Category Archives: St. Vincent de paul

3 Saints Who Never Knew the Impact They Would Have on Others –

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

This article appeared in Aleteia on May 18, 2016
St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frederick Ozanam, St. Jeanne Jugan

Saint-Servan, France,1839:  On a bitterly cold winter night,  Jeanne Jugan , 47, looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and somehow managed to carry the shivering woman into her own home and place her in her own bed.

The woman’s name was Anne Chauvin and she was blind, paralyzed and quite old. She was also close to freezing to death. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor. 
Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanne. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as  The Little Sisters of the Poor
By 1879, there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. That year was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. Ironically, it was also the same year Jeanne Jugan died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Saint Jeanne Jugan never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young countryman of hers in Paris was responding to God’s flowing graces. Frederick Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris. Challenged by his “enlightened” college peers, he embraced their taunts “to practice what you preach”.  
Accepting the challenge, Frederick went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Shortly thereafter,  he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society . That was in May of 1833.  They named the society after St.Vincent because he was known for his work with the poor.
Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantle of helping the poor all over the world. Frederick Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Frederick  would never know that the organization he had founded would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor.
 St. Jeanne Jugan could never have known that from the moment she carried Anne Chauvin into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world.
 Blessed Frederick would never have imagined that his Society of St. Vincent de Paul would become a worldwide organization with close to a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.
The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God’s grace. Jeanne took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vincent worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughters of Charity.
These three unpretentious, God loving people had two things in common.  First, they embraced God’s grace and followed His call. Secondly, they asked for NOTHING for themselves and welcomed whatever came their way, including poverty. Their legacies live on in the thousands upon thousands of their followers and in all those millions who have been helped by their simple acts of faith. This is a beautiful thing.
 As a Catholic I love these people and I am proud to consider myself part of their extended family. They set examples for us that we are supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.
 St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugan and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please keep praying for all of us. And —THANK YOU.

                            ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Talk About a Love Story–meet Mary Clarke aka Mother Antonia Brenner

by Larry Peterson

Mary Clarke was born in Los Angeles on December 1, 1926. Her parents, Joe and Kathleen Clarke, were Irish immigrants and dad  strictly enforced  the catholic upbringing of Mary and his other two children. Joe sold office supplies to the military during World War II and made a lot of money. The family moved to Beverly Hills and hobnobbed with the Hollywood elite on a frequent basis. Life was good for the Clarke family but, no matter how successful Joe Clarke was, he always taught his children to help those less fortunate. The desire to help others was deeply imbedded in Mary Clarke and would one day explode

Mary married at a young age and had three children. The first died shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce and as  soon as the divorce was final she married again in Las Vegas. She had five more children from that marriage. That marriage also ended in divorce. Not exactly adhering to her Catholic upbringing, was she? But now the grace of God embraced Mary Clarke squeezing her so tightly that a love inside her burst forth and suddenly the most downtrodden and pathetic among us were about to witness up close and personally the Hand of God working through her. The diminutive woman, twice divorced and the mother of seven grown children, was about to move from Beverly Hills, CA into La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico, home to some of the worst kinds of criminals on the planet.

As Mary’s children grew she became more and more involved in charity work. After the kids were grown Mary began making trips to La Mesa Penitentiary to deliver donations such as food, medicine and clothing to the prisoners. Every time she left, the plight of the prisoners filled her with a growing compassion that ultimately would define her. In 1977, after her kids had grown and her second divorce was final, she gave away her  expensive clothes and belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa Prison. She had received permission to move in to La Mesa and was given a 10′ by 10′ cell to live in. She lived as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell, having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall and a prison bed.  In the morning she lined up for roll call with all the other prisoners. This became her new home and would be home for the next 30 years.

Mary was an older, divorced woman and according to  church rules could not join any religious order. Undeterred, she went about her work while forming a new order. She received permission to take private vows and donned a habit and became known as Sister Antonia. After a year or so the local bishop, Juan Jesus Posadas, of Tijuana and Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego, officially welcomed and blessed her ministry and made her an auxiliary Mercerdarian, an order that has a special devotion to prisoners. Now, at the age of 50, she had become a sister.

Sister Antonia walked freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists and others, touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of men. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them and held their heads when they were dying.

Mother Antonia
Mother Antonia Brenner

 Talk about a ‘love story’. She saw the face of Jesus in every prisoner and loved them all. She became know as the “prison angel” and many began calling her “Mama”. Mama Antonia Brenner, quelled brewing riots, broke up fights, touched cheeks, gave hugs and became loved by the worst of the worst.

Mother Antonia’a following began to grow and she named her community the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour. St. John Eudes,  a very close friend of Vincent de Paul, was her inspiration. The ‘eleventh hour’ refers to the call to vocation of older women ages 45 and up. Today there are 22 sisters. Eight work in La Mesa and the others are dispersed throughout the United states    working mainly in prison ministries. Mother Antonia also has seven grown children and many grandchildren. The “Prison Angel” passed away on October 17, 2013. She was 86. For the full story about this amazing woman of God who might very well be canonized a saint one day go to http://eudistservants.org/site/ 

Saints Jeanie, Fred, Vinnie — Our Catholic Christian Families Must All Stand Together

by Larry Peterson

When Jeanie Jugon began working in the hospital in Saint-Servan she was 25 years old. She hated poverty and all it wrought and she wanted desperately to fight back against it. One bitterly cold winter night in 1839, Jeanie looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and  somehow managed to carry the freezing woman into her own home and place her in her own bed. The woman was blind, paralyzed and quite old. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor.

Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanie. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Forty years later there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. 1879 was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. That  was the same year Jeanie Jugon died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Jeanne Jugon never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young man hundreds of miles away in Paris was unknowingly doing something quite similar. Fred Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris and, challenged by his “enlightened” college peers, embraced their taunts “to practice what you preach”.  So he went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Then he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. That was in May of 1833.  The society was  named after St.Vinnie because he was known for his work with the poor.

 Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantel of helping the poor all over the world. Fred Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Fred would never know that the organization he  had founded  would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor. Saint Jeanie could never have known that from the moment she carried her first old, sick woman into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the  elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world. Blessed Fred would never have imagined that his St.Vincent de Paul Society would become a worldwide organization with 3/4 of a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.

The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God’s grace. Jeanie took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vinnie worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughter’s of Charity. The two things they all had in common was a) they welcomed God’s grace and followed His call and b) they asked for NOTHING for themselves and embraced poverty. Remarkably, their thousands and thousands of followers, separated by centuries, work together to this day. This is a beautiful thing.

 Using the names of saints as I have done here bothers some folks. I really do not care about that.  My brother’s name is Daniel but I call him Danny. As far as Jeanie, Fred and Vinnie go, they are my family too.  You see, I love all of these people and using their names like that makes me feel closer to them. They set examples for us that we supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore  members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.

We must remember to pray hard for The Little Sisters of the Poor as they stand their ground against the HHS mandate that threatens their very existence. The forces of secularism are hard at work to remove religion from our lives. All our family members, including Vinnie, Jeanie and Fred, need  to stand together defending each other against this enemy.

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugon and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please pray for us.