Jeanne Delanoue


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foundress of the Sisters of Providence. She was born at Saumur, and grew up small, authoritarian, and coquettish. When she was grown up she took charge of the family shop, which sold drapery and pious articles. At the age of twenty-six she met the Abbé Genetau and a dubious visionary called Françoise Suchet. She now gave her goods to the poor, having transformed her home into a guest-house. Situated by the River Loire, it had caves and cellars similar to those of present-day wine merchants, in which she gave hospitality to the indigent. But all this was lost in a disastrous earthquake in 1703.

Now she made a new start, founding the Sisters of St Anne, later called the Sisters of Providence, in 1704. With two other young women to help her, she devoted her energies to the care of the poor. In 1709 the bishop of Angers approved this congregation, which in the famine of that year cared for 100 people in Providence House. Her own regime in the house of the Three Angels was austere in the extreme. She rose at 3 a.m. and spent the day looking after the distressed and the abandoned, single mothers and prostitutes. At night she slept in an old shroud, dirty and revolting. This elicited the remark from her director that she was ‘the pig of Jesus Christ’. All this was a far cry from the early years as a somewhat grasping small shopkeeper. Her enterprises were appreciated by her townsmen who praised her unceasing work for the unfortunate during the difficult years of war and hunger. At the time of her death she had founded twelve communities; now her congregation numbers over 400. She was canonized in 1982. Feast: 17 August.

Life by F. Trochu (1938);Bibl. SS., iv. 538.

Subjects: Christianity.

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