WMOF First Impressions


First impression: It’s MASSIVE!

We started the day among hundreds of people unloading their exhibit items on an expansive loading dock, one floor above street level, at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Taking up several blocks, this is the most massive building of this kind we’ve ever seen! And there are hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors! After an arduous morning we had a new respect for people who make their living going to trade shows and conventions!

In the afternoon we returned to the Convention Center and breezed through the miraculously well-organized registration process, emerging on the other end, after only about 10 minutes, with backpacks, caps and T-shirts, Pope fans, metro tickets and lots of other cool stuff.


We put the finishing touches on our booth and then three of us headed to the National Constitution Center at Independence Mall (http://constitutioncenter.org/) for a panel discussion on the First Amendment and religious liberty, featuring several Constitutional scholars and “our own” Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund. It was a lively but always respectful discussion between individuals representing a broad spectrum of ideas. Our clearest take-away: the contemporary use of the phrase “separation of church and state” has nothing to do with the First Amendment or the vision of our Founding Fathers!



















As we prepare for Pope's visit, John Paul II comes to us

We feel privileged here in Washington to live in the shadow not only of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, but also of the National Saint John Paul II Shrine, which is right next door. Today we had a surprise visit from a team of Knights of Columbus, who administer the Shrine, who came bearing the first class relic of John Paul II for our veneration. As a young musician played quiet praise and worship music we enjoyed a nearly two0hour visit from John Paul II, allowing everyone to venerate the relic as they desired.


Sun Set, Sun Rise

by Maria Mondello, Nicholls University

After I returned home after this summer of working and living with the Little Sisters of the Poor at their home in Pittsburgh, many of my close friends and family were wondering what my favorite part of the summer was, and what were the graces that I received during this time from our beloved Father in heaven. All I can say is that there is not one favorite thing, one grace, or one thing that stood out among the rest. I know that it will take time and prayer and reflection to really understand how good the Lord was to me this summer.

But yet, the truth is that my time in Pittsburgh was way more than just working with the elderly. Being with them seemed to be the backdrop of God working miracles within my heart, showing his unwearied love and mercy to my very weary and tired soul.

I landed in Pittsburgh on a beautiful May evening to a glorious sunset. The symbolism of the sun setting, I later realized, was the sun going down on my former ways of thinking, of living, of loving. I knew little of what God’s plans were going to be this summer and I ready to see them unfold, according to His will. When I was 18, the summer before college, God revealed Himself to me in a way that changed my entire outlook on pretty much everything! He revealed His love, mercy, and forgiveness to me in a way I had never realized before and I knew that I could no long keep running from Him or ignoring him, as I had in the past. But yet, I had always wondered how I was to express God’s love to others. Faith is not just something interior, silent, hidden deep within ourselves, but it should also be shown to the world that there is a God who is love with us and He desires to bestow His mercy upon us, His very own special children. But yet, I struggled living that out. I had given up running college track and left college for a little while to discern religious life, only to return to school, wondering, once again, how I am to serve God, how to love God, how God can use me, unworthy servant that I I am, to build up His Church here on earth for His kingdom. I had also started a seemingly endless search for more. I longed for love, a stronger sense of community, acceptance, belonging, security, and meaning to my otherwise meaningless existence. My search and my questions, instead of bringing me to the truth, led to me a very dark place, a place of despair, and anxiousness. I longed for light, love, and truth. All of this is the backdrop of the greatest adventure I was about the go on, working, living, and praying, at a nursing home that was run by religious sisters.

I had signed up for the spring into service internship during my Christmas break. I was really unsure of the reason at the time. I had little experience with working with the elderly and had never had any contact with a Little Sister of the Poor, so I was slightly anxious, and nervous before the summer started. I was also looking at the religious community, with prayers of hopefully receiving some clarity regarding my call to become a religious sister.

But, as the summer progressed, it became so much more than a simple yes or no to this particular religious community, but it become much more than that. It was the gateway to receiving the most beautiful love and mercy from God, our heavenly father. Through serving and being with the elderly people on a daily basis, I had the opportunity to see, touch, and know God more than I ever could on my own. I felt acceptance and a place of belonging from their simplicity and wisdom and their ability to receive me with open arms. I had always longed to serve God but my efforts never seemed good enough and there always seemed to be an emptiness within my restless heart after various times of trying.

I came to Pittsburgh with the idea that I would be leaving with more clarity and even a major life decisions with this particular religious community. Instead of making a decision with one particular community, I went on journey of knowing God more, of myself having more self- knowledge of myself, and of having my deepest wounds of rejection and abandonment better healed by God, through the elderly residents, as well as the volunteers and employees. Within the home, I found within, the most belonging and sense of “home” that I have ever encountered and I am thankful for that. With that being said, as I flew out of Pittsburgh on an early Saturday morning, the sun was just rising. Dawn was approaching. The light was changing the darkness of the night into a marvelous and glorious morning.

To all Residents (both apartment and nursing), volunteers, employees, and Sisters, thank you for this wonderful experience at your safe haven in Pittsburgh. Thank you for receiving me, loving me, praying for me, feeding me (LOL), and allowing me to grow closer to the all-powerful, loving, and merciful heart of God!


“We may be little, insignificant servants in the eyes of a world motivated by efficiency, control and success. But when we realize that God has chosen us from all eternity, sent us into the world as the blessed ones, handed us over to suffering, can't we, then, also trust that our little lives will multiply themselves and be able to fulfill the needs of countless people?”- Henri Nouwen: Life of the Beloved




We’re getting excited!



























Today Pope Francis begins his visit to Cuba, which means that he will be here in the USA in 3 days! Here in Washington the excitement is reaching fever pitch as barricades and banners appear on our block and the stage for the Papal Mass is nearing completion on the steps of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. No doubt our Sisters in Philadelphia are getting just excited as they prepare for the World Meeting of Families and the Papal events that are sure to be its highlight. (photos: Residents in Louisville, Philly, Washington and San Pedro, CA participate in the popular "Flat Francis" welcome. Even in areas that will not receive the Pope our Residents are sharing in the excitement!).

Here are just a few highlights of what promises to be a very exciting week ahead:

On Monday we’ll be setting up shop at Philadelphia’s Convention Center, where we will have a booth at the World Meeting of Families featuring the role of the elderly and grandparents in the family. We’ll be inviting people of all ages to share what they learned from their grandparents and will post their thoughts on our blog. So revisit this blog during the week, and if you are attending the World Meeting of Families visit us in the Exhibitors Hall at booth #237!

Here in D.C. 3 Little Sisters have been invited to attend the Papal welcome ceremony at the White House lawn Wednesday morning, Sept. 23.

Later that day over 30 of us will be in the outdoor crowd for the Papal Mass at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, while our novices will be inside the Basilica with other young religious and seminarians from around the country.












We can’t wait to see the staging for the Mass. A member of our Association Jeanne Jugan who is an architecture professor at Catholic University was part of the design team for the stage and altar; and we were asked to loan our chapel’s large and beautiful crucifix for the Mass. We feel so honored knowing that a piece of our chapel will help set the stage for the Holy Father’s Mass!

After Mass the Holy Father will pass by our house on his way to the John Paul II Seminary. Will he stop in for a visit? Our Residents sure hope so!

In New York 3 Little Sisters will attend Vespers with the Holy Father in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on September 24, and a few others are hoping for tickets to attend the Mass at Madison Square Garden the next day.

Pope Francis will arrive in Philadelphia on Saturday. A few Little Sisters hope to hear his speech at Independence Mall before joining the crowd for the Festival of Families at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The grand finale will be the World Meeting of Families’ concluding Mass Sunday afternoon on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Check back next week for updates!













Washington held a Pope Party one week ahead of the Holy Father's visit to educate and get everyone excited about his visit. Staff member Krista serves Alfajores and Empanaditas, Argentinian specialties made by a Little Sister, while groups battle it out during the Papal Trivia Contest. 




Seeing Magic Things

by Danielle Medearis, University of Tulsa



The Irish poet W.B. Yeats once wrote:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

As my time working here at the Jeanne Jugan Residence through the Spring Into Service program comes to a close, I’ve reflected on my time here and this quote has often come to mind. Although some of their more conventional senses may be dulled and muffled a tad, I believe the Residents here possess this sharpened ability to see magic things.

I’ve seen it in small instances; in a Resident marveling at the beauty of the flowers in the garden outside which I had overlooked for so long, in the thoughtful far-off gaze of a woman as she waits so patiently in perfect contentment for her breakfast to be brought to her, or the quiet smiles of those I’ve helped to accompany on a group outing to the beach as they look out at the waves. There are flashing moments when it seems to me the Residents here are viewing a world completely separate from the world I am accustomed to taking in, and this world seems to indeed be much more magical than the one my foggy eyesight beholds.

Now, this is not to say everyone living here floats around all day in a cloud of ancient wisdom feeling nothing but harmony and peace and occasionally deigning to pass along snippets of sage advice to the lowly young ones around them; just like all normal people, Residents have good days and bad days.

But I’ve seen on their good days instances of an offhand comment or contemplative glance that convey this incredible awareness of life that they possess. After a full life, their sense of the world has grown sharper, and they see the world plainly for the magical place it is.

I think being young can muddle vision very easily and quite often. I have one thousand distractions bouncing around my mind that aren’t inherently negative, but they create a sort of static that easily blurs the world around me. My picture of what is real, what I should be doing, and most importantly, who I should be living for, often lacks clarity. The chance to work with the Residents and serve them and simply be around them has provided me with the opportunity to observe the clarity they possess. Their vision is clear, their priorities are not being constantly and frantically rearranged, and they know themselves.

I wish I could say this clarity of understanding the world and one’s place in it rubbed off totally onto me while I’ve been here this summer, but alas, it has not. I have a hunch it takes a few years to acquire. But, it has made me aware of my own need to start attempting to see the world clearly, to start improving on my life awareness.

Because once I’ve aged and am a resident in a home I hope to be like Jeanne Jugan, I’m not going to tell the story of that one time I got a 98% on my genetics midterm, or how I had really good fashion sense during my college years, or even my running personal records and times. I’m going to want to tell stories like the ones I’ve heard here, about the family I raised, the people I served, and the times I recognized God’s love for me in the hands of others.

As my time with the Little Sisters of the Poor and the wonderful Residents and workers here at Jeanne Jugan comes to a close, I look forward to carrying everything I have learned and experienced out into the bigger world, where I can continue to sharpen my own senses to observe the magic of the Lord’s beautiful earth in which I live.