The life of Jeanne-Antide Thouret is an adventure marked by a passion: the service of the poor, the “suffering members of Jesus Christ,” and by an event: the French Revolution.
|1765, 17 November||birth|
|1787||entrance into the Company of the Daughters of Charity|
|1799, 11 April||foundation of the Sisters of Charity of Besançon|
|1826, 24 August||death in Naples|
|1926, 23 May||beatified by Pope Pius XI|
|1934, 14 January||canonized by Pope Pius XI|
|23 May||feast day|
Jeanne-Antide Thouret was born in Sancey-le-Long (Doubs). She was the fifth child in a rural family of the very Christian county of Franche. At the age of 22 she entered the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul to serve those who are poor, first in Langres and then in Paris.
In May 1794 Jeanne-Antide returned to Sancey because during the French Revolution all the Daughters of Charity, just as a good number of religious, were disbanded and had to return to their family homes.
On the 15th of August 1795 she went to Switzerland with the « Solitaires » of Father Antoine-Sylvestre Receveur. Because of the rejection of the Christian faith this community was obliged to roam across Europe for 12 years. She travelled across Switzerland and part of Germany. She left the community and arrived in Landeron, near Neuchâtel, Switzerland after a lonely journey of more than 600 kilometers. There she received an appeal from two French priests who asked her to return to Besançon, France to care for sick and uneducated children.
On April 11, 1799 in Besançon, with two young women, she established a free school for girls and and a soup kitchen for the poor. The people called them the “sisters of the soup kitchen and little schools.”
From May to September 1802 Jeanne-Antide revised a Rule of Life for her community. Accompanied by several sisters attracted by her ideal of life she opened new schools and places to care for the sick, where she sent her sisters to teach and care for the poor. On September 23, 1802 she was asked to take over serving the prisoners in Bellevaux. There she used her talents as educator, gave them food and organized their work permitting them to receive a salary. In Paris in 1807 the Sisters received the official name of “Sisters of Charity of Besançon.”
On May 8, 1810 she was called to Savoy, Thonon, where she went with some Sisters. A little later she was called to Naples where she went with eight of her Sisters. There she was asked to take on the care of the Hospital for Incurables. She also opened a school and a pharmacy in the midst of the convent they had been given. She and her Sisters never hesitated to go out to visit and care for the poor and sick.
Their Constitutions were approved by Pope Pius VII on July 23, 1819. He gave them the name, “Sisters of Charity under the protection of St. Vincent de Paul.” Jeanne-Antide died in Naples on August 24, 1826.
The Community today counts 4000 Sisters spread over the five continents, working in a large variety of services for those who are poor. Community life, the Eucharist and the Paschal Mystery are today, as they were for Jeanne-Antide, the key elements of their life.