PHILADELPHIA – It’s a happy time at Holy Family Home in Southwest Philadelphia.

In August, the residence for the elderly poor, operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, celebrated the 140th anniversary of the order’s arrival in Philadelphia. To commemorate the anniversary of the community’s establishment in Philadelphia, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas celebrated Mass at Holy Family Home Aug. 24, the feast of St. Bartholomew.

He opened and closed his homily with the responsorial psalm: “Your friends make known, O, Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” Bishop Thomas referenced the Gospel of John 1:45-51 and explained that the mission of the apostles was to preach the kingdom to all and, in a special way, to the poor.

He shared that the apostolic mission of the Church is carried out in the work of the mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor. They, as friends of Jesus, have made known throughout their 140 years in Philadelphia, the splendor and glory of His kingdom for the poor elderly they serve each day at Holy Family Home, he said.

In October, the congregation’s foundress, Jeanne Jugan, will be canonized a saint in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.

“The residents have a great love for Jeanne Jugan,” said Little Sister of the Poor Mother Veronica Coyle, the local superior. “They really feel a kinship with her.”

The congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor began 170 years ago on a cold winter day in 1839. Jeanne Jugan, a 47-year-old maid, opened her home in Cancale, France, to an elderly, poor blind woman. The congregation arrived in Philadelphia 30 years later, on Aug. 24, 1869.

Today, the Little Sisters of the Poor care for the elderly poor in 32 countries.

Holy Family Home in Philadelphia, located at 5300 Chester Ave., currently houses 97 residents who range in age from 60 to 103. The facility has 45 nursing rooms, 22 assisted-living rooms and 30 apartments. The residents are served by 11 religious sisters who reside on the premises and by 101 lay staff members.

“The residents are not living in our home – we’re living in their home,” said Mother Veronica.

Two of the 11 sisters who currently serve Holy Family Home are native Philadelphians: Sister Elizabeth Teresa Baeringer was raised in St. John the Baptist Parish in the Manayunk section of the city and Sister Elisabeth John the Baptist McGinley was raised in St. Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Southwest Philadelphia.

Four of the sisters – including Sister Elizabeth Teresa Baeringer – are celebrating religious jubilees this year

Throughout the years, countless faithful of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have helped the sisters care for the aged poor through their prayers and financial assistance.

The sisters are counting on their continued generosity at a garden reception and car raffle from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Holy Family Home. The winner of the first prize may choose either a 2010 Ford Edge SE or $26,000. Proceeds will benefit ongoing capital needs, which currently include state-of-the-art medical beds for assisted living and nursing residents, upgraded computer and software systems, new facsimile and copy machines and a 15-seat van to transport residents to off-site field trips.

At a raffle at the home’s annual family picnic this past July, $58,000 was raised for general operating needs.

The sisters also raise money and goods on the residents’ behalf away from their shared home, “begging” daily wherever they can. Each week, they receive free fresh vegetables through the generosity of a nearby wholesale fruit and vegetable distribution center and free meat from various wholesalers. They also ask for prayers and financial assistance at Catholic churches across the Archdiocese.

Mother Veronica said it is significant that their foundress’ Oct. 11 canonization occurs the year national health care reform in the United States is high in the headlines.

“When we talk about right to life, we also have think about the elderly,” she said. “They need respect, they need to be cared for with dignity and they need to feel loved. They’ve worked so hard all their life and really deserve to be taken care of well at the end of their life.”

Those who hope to call Holy Family Home their home must apply to reside there.

Although there is currently a waiting list, the next available room could open any time, “when God calls somebody home to heaven,” Mother Veronica said.

For more information about the upcoming raffle or to make a contribution to the Little Sisters of the Poor, call (215) 729-5153, extension 1121. Send standard correspondence to: Little Sisters of the Poor, 5300 Chester Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19143 or e-mail

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or