September 22, 2017

Little Sisters of the Poor provide witness of God’s love and ‘keep dignity before us,’ Archbishop Thompson says

Little Sisters of the Poor Sister Gloria Thomas, left, Mother Francis Gabriel, and Sisters Alexis, Cecelia and Marthe welcome Archbishop Charles C. Thompson to the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis on Aug. 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Little Sisters of the Poor Sister Gloria Thomas, left, Mother Francis Gabriel, and Sisters Alexis, Cecelia and Marthe welcome Archbishop Charles C. Thompson to the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis on Aug. 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Like fans anticipating the arrival of a celebrity, eight Little Sisters of the Poor eagerly waited outside their home for Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

“There he is! That’s him!” one exclaimed as the archbishop’s black car pulled into the drive of the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis.

Before he was out of the car, Mother Francis Gabriel, the order’s superior in Indianapolis, and several of the sisters rushed to greet him.

“Immediately after we heard about his being named as archbishop, we looked for an opportunity to welcome him to our home,” said Mother Francis.

The day they settled on was Aug. 30, the feast day of St. Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“We pulled out all the plugs—it’s a family feast day,” Mother Francis said.

Archbishop Thompson’s visit to the St. Augustine Home was not his first introduction to the Little Sisters. The order has a home in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., where the archbishop was a priest, and had a home in Evansville where he served as bishop for six years. The home in Evansville closed in 2014.

“I have a great, high regard for them,” the archbishop told The Criterion. “St. Jeanne Jugan has a great story, her unassuming way that she had about her and her vocation … .

“They give such witness to that today. The Little Sisters of the Poor, they’re so highly regarded throughout the Church.”

(Related story: Little Sisters rely on ‘God’s partners’ to help meet needs)

During his homily, Archbishop Thompson shared with the congregation how, when he was ordained and installed as bishop of Evansville in 2011, then‑Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein joked with him, “Don’t let anyone call you Bishop Chuck. If they do, make them pay $10 to the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

Archbishop Thompson also likened St. Jeanne Jugan to an iceberg “where you just see the tip, but the biggest chunk is under the water. ...

“How much goes on here [at the St. Augustine Home] day in and day out, not just among the sisters but the volunteers, the staff, even among the residents and their families? We see many beautiful things, and yet usually that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Archbishop Thompson noted how the Little Sisters’ foundress cared for and reached out to “those who society so often turns away and acts indifferent toward. St. Jeanne Jugan saw that dignity. I think that’s what the Little Sisters do here, is keep that dignity before us. …

“What we celebrate today is a saint that tells us to look out for others, keeping Christ in the center and focusing on others.”

He recounted a story of a lover of music who told an ailing concert pianist, “I love music. I can play the notes. But I cannot play the music. The notes are in the hand, but the music is in the heart, and in the soul.”

The archbishop said the witness of St. Jeanne Jugan and the Little Sisters of the Poor is that “they show us not just what it is to play the notes, but to play the music of God’s love, mercy and compassion, that which comes not just from the hands and the feet, but what comes from the heart and the soul.”

Archbishop Thompson noted that, in proclaiming the Beatitudes in that day’s Gospel reading, Christ showed how he recognized “dignity in everyone as a child of God,” that “whatever their frustration, whatever their pain, they did not go unnoticed by God … . So each person, regardless of their state in life, [is] blessed. …

“We honor St. Jeanne Jugan today by counting our blessings, even in the midst of hardships. We continue to look after the needs of others. We continue to raise up those whom Jesus Christ loves. …

“[Emulate St. Jeanne Jugan] not just by counting your blessings, but by being a blessing to others, by giving of ourselves not just with our hands and our feet, but with our hearts and our souls.”

After the Mass, a long line of residents, family members, volunteers, St. Augustine Home Guild members and staff stretched through the chapel to meet Archbishop Thompson.

Residents Carl and Patricia Lentz, both 87, were among those who waited as long as a half hour to meet the archbishop.

“We were blessed to have him here,” said Carl. “I think he’s going to be a blessing to us all. I look forward to experiencing him in the liturgy again sometime. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m ready!”

“The Mass was beautiful, just beautiful,” said Carl’s wife, Patricia.

As residents of St. Augustine Home for seven years, the couple recalled meeting then-Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin when he celebrated Mass at the home.

“We hated to see Cardinal Tobin go,” Patricia admitted. “But this is all part of God’s plan. It was so refreshing to get to meet [Archbishop Thompson].”

Sister Amy, one of the sisters who greeted the archbishop outside, noted “how happy we were that he could come.

“We were especially touched by his humility. He was so happy to be here.

“It was a very special moment for us.”

(For more information on the Little Sisters of the Poor and the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, visit

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