Delanoue, Jeanne (Joan), St.
DELANOUE, JEANNE (JOAN), ST.
Known in religion as Joan of the Cross (Jeanne de la Croix); founder of the Sisters of Saint Anne of the Providence of Samur; b. June 18, 1666 at Samur, Anjou, France; d. Aug. 17, 1736 at Fencet, France.
The youngest of 12 children, Joan's early years were not edifying: she was small, coquettish, avaricious, and quick tempered. When her widowed mother's death left her proprietress of the family's religious goods store, Jeanne planned to enrich herself on pilgrims to the shrine of Our Lady of Ardilliers. Intent upon making money, she scandalized her neighbors by keeping the shop open on Sundays. Her miserly nature is revealed in her refusal to keep food on hand so that she could tell beggars that she had nothing to give them. The Holy Spirit spoke to her through two different individuals in 1698. One was a dubious visionary named Françoise Suchet, whose pious exhortation stirred Joan. The other was Abbé Genetau, whose conversations caused her to reform her life. After performing severe penance she was granted an ecstasy in which her vocation to help the poor was revealed. She began this at once by giving away her goods to the poor and living a life of austerity and penance. Her home, known as "Providence House," in which she cared for orphans, was destroyed in an earthquake in 1703. She started over, closed her shop in order to devote herself full–time to charity, and gathered like–minded women, including her niece, to found formally the Sisters of St. Anne (later called the Sisters of Providence) in 1704. The sisters cared for single mothers, prostitutes—anyone in distress. Jeanne had a devotion to the Christ Child, which led her to her particular work with orphans. Her rigorous personal life drew criticism from the local bishop, from Jansenists, and from Louis de Montfort until her sincerity was proved. The congregation received diocesan approval in 1709. When she died peacefully at the age of 70, the people of Saumur praised her goodness. She was beatified in 1947, and canonized by John Paul II on Oct. 31, 1982.
Feast: Aug. 17.
Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 40 (1948): 314–19; 79 (1987): 233–37. j. l. baudot and l. chaussin, Vies des saints et des bienheureux selon l'ordre du calendrier avec l'historique des fêtes, ed. by the Benedictines of Paris, 12 v. (Paris 1935–56) 8:311–317. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 45 (1982):1, 2, 12. m.–c. guillerand–champenier, Les Servantes des pauvres de la Providence de Saumur (Chambray 1985). m. laigle, La Mère des pauvres (Saint–Hilaire–Saint–Florent, France 1968). j. nicodÈme, Quand souffle l'Esprit: itinéraire spirituel de Jeanne Delanoue (Saint–Hilaire–Saint–Florent 1970). f. trochu, La Bienheureuse Jeanne Delanoue, new ed. (Paris 1950).
[k. i. rabenstein]