For more than four decades, the Trinity High School community has awarded the Trinity Peace Medal. The award recognizes a deserving individual or group for efforts that promote peacemaking, justice-building and service to others. Mr. Klaus Mittelsten H’92, who at the time was chair of Trinity’s Foreign Language Department, initiated the award, along with then-Trinity principal Rev. Thomas Duerr H’92. Recent recipients have included Sister Mary Angela Shaughnessy H’15, Sister Barbara Bir, Dr. Sam Horton ’70, Mr. Michael Whiting and Greg Fischer ’76, Mayor of Louisville.
The 2016 Trinity Peace Medal is awarded to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The Little Sisters of the Poor were founded by Jeanne Jugan in 1839, when she caught sight of an old woman, blind and paralyzed, out in the cold with no one to care for her. She took her in to her own apartment and from that night on dedicated her life to God and the elderly of the world. The work developed quickly. More old women were brought to her doorstep. A group of young women came to help. They cared for the old women as if they were their own grandmothers.
Within a few years, the “family” of old women and their caregivers outgrew the apartment and they moved into a house. The little group of caring women began to take the form of a religious community, calling themselves the Servants of the Poor. In 1844, the group changed its name to the Sisters of the Poor to reflect their desire to be sisters to the poor in God’s name. In 1849, the popular “Little Sisters of the Poor” was formally adopted.
In the 1860s, the Little Sisters began to move out beyond France to other countries. As of last year, they had 181 homes located in 31 different countries. There were over 12,300 residents in those homes being cared for by just over 2,200 Little Sisters.
In 1868, the congregation came to the United States. Within a few years, there were several houses for the poor and elderly founded, one of which was located in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1869, St. Joseph’s Home opened on 10th Street. It operated there, taking care of the poor elderly for over a century. In 1977 it was forced to close because of structural issues. The Little Sisters left town at that point.
The Little Sisters were sorely missed in Louisville, so a group of concerned supporters rallied to bring the Little Sisters back. On May 15, 1991, the Little Sisters returned to Louisville and opened St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged on Audubon Plaza Drive. It was built on land that was donated by Archbishop Thomas Kelly H’01.
The sole purpose of the Little Sisters of the Poor is serving the needs of the elderly poor in the Louisville Metropolitan area. Quality care is currently provided by 12 Little Sisters to 77 residents (with an average age of 84.5 years old) who are without the means, family or social support to maintain independence in the community. The continuum of services permits a sense of security throughout their life. In Louisville, their services include a 50-bed nursing home with three levels of care, a 27-unit apartment building for the elderly and a Senior Day Center that is open to the needy elderly of the community.
The Little Sisters of the Poor not only provide a comfortable home and nutritious meals for impoverished seniors; they care for the whole person by offering medical and nursing services, pastoral services, social services, an extensive activity program, the Senior Day Center, beauty shop, barber shop services, and physical and occupational therapies as needed.
St. Joseph’s Home has provided safe haven for more than 6,400 of the poorest elderly in Louisville since 1869. The Little Sisters of the Poor have welcomed the elderly to St. Joseph’s regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. One of the most difficult times the elderly face is the end of their life; this is compounded if they are alone. The Little Sisters take a fourth vow of Hospitality, which guides their profound respect for life. It is through this respect that the Little Sisters take turns so as to never leave any dying residents and their families alone during their final days, offering them comfort and prayer as they journey toward eternal life.
The Louisville community has always been very generous in providing many of the staples needed to feed and care for the residents of St. Joseph’s Home. Donations have allowed the Little Sisters to meet some of the needs not covered by the residents’ meager incomes. The Little Sisters are vigilant in their quest to be good stewards of the gifts they receive and to lower costs without lowering the quality of care they provide.
On October 10, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Jeanne Jugan. Pope Benedict said that her canonization “would show once again how living faith is prodigious in good works, and how sanctity is healing balm for the wounds of humankind.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor are humble women whose joy in life is to serve. They follow the example set by Jesus to take care of those on the margins of society – the poor and the elderly. Their giving of themselves to others can be a model for all of us. Trinity is proud to bestow the 2016 Peace Medal to the Louisville congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Trinity President Dr. Robert Mullen ’77 and Mr. Klaus Mittelsten H’92 presented the award. Mother Paul accepted the award for the congregation.