The core Gospel values of love, prayer and service form the life of every Sister of Charity of St. Joan Antida. We draw guidance in living out our commitment as religious women from the life of our foundress, St. Jeanne Antide Thouret.
Her story is worth retelling…
Born on November 27, 1765 in the Sancey-le-Long in the Doubs department in France, Jeanne Antide Thouret was the fifth child of a family of eight. When she was just 15 years old, her mother died leaving the responsibility of maintaining to Jeanne Antide.
As a young girl she searched for a way that would give meaning to her life and believed that it was important to respond to God’s will for her. At 22 she left her home and joined the Daughters of Charity, a congregation at the service of the poor founded by St. Vincent de Paul in Paris.
In 1793, when the French Revolution was at its height, all religious congregations were banned and Jeanne Antide was forced to leave the Daughters of Charity. She returned to her home knowing she would carry on what she had learned from St. Vincent de Paul. She cared for the sick, the wounded, and the poor – all of which grew numerous during the chaos of the French Revolution. Jeanne Antide also taught the children, helped the priests who were forced to hide, and gathered Christians in prayer.
Because of her desire to commit herself to Christ and to her religious vocation, Jeanne Antide fled France and escaped to Switzerland to join a different religious itinerant community where she cared for the sick. With them she traveled across Switzerland and Germany.
When she decided to return to France she did so on foot, alone, without a passport and through unknown places at the risk of her own life. Jeanne Antide passed through Einsiedeln and reached the village of Landeron in Switzerland. It was there the representatives from the diocese of Besançon, also in exile, made a request of her to continue on to France and take in young girls who she should train in the same way she was trained. With these girls Jeanne Antide returned to Besançon, France to teach children and to care for the sick. She accepted this request and in 1799 she opened a school, a dispensary, and a soup kitchen for the poor in Besancon. She had founded a new congregation.
In 1810 Jeanne Antide was called to Naples. There she and a group of sisters faced working in a very hierarchical social system where the wealthy never encountered to poor. Jeanne Antide was in charge of the Hospital of the Incurable, the largest hospital in the city. The sisters often visited the poor and sick in their homes.
In 1819, the Pope approved the Rule of Life, a book she used to organize her congregation and the life of the women who had followed her. In fact, the Rule of Life is still used today by the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida.
Jeanne Antide died in Naples in 1826. In 1934, Pope Pius XI declared her a Saint.