Today, February 7, we celebrate the feast day of a Daughter of Charity. Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu.
Jeanne Marie Rendu (Sister Rosalie) was born 9 September 1786 and died on February 9, 1856. Sister Rosalie was at the center of a movement of charity that characterized Paris and France in the first half of the 19th century where public assistance did not exist. On May 25, 1802 Sister Rosalie entered the Seminary (novitiate) at the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris.
On leaving the Seminary Sister Rosalie was sent to the Mouffetard neighborhood, one of the most miserable of Paris, where she served the poor for 53 years. There she was a nurse, a justice of the peace, a catechist for the street children, and at the same time, at the risk of her life, she came between the revolutionaries who intended to kill a military person saying: “Here there is no killing!” Sister Rosalie was the “good mother of all” without distinction of religion, political persuasion, or social status. With one hand, she received from the rich, with the other she gave to the poor.
Father Robert Maloney, C.M., former superior general of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity, said of Sister Rosalie: “Like St. Vincent, Rosalie knew how to be friend to both [rich and poor]. The poor loved her deeply, because they sensed that she lived out precisely what she asked of the sisters who accompanied her … But the rich too were attracted to Rosalie. She was the real thing. They found her appeals irresistible. Rosalie knew how to engage their energies and their resources in the service of the poor.”
To the rich Sister Rosalie gave the joy of doing good works. Often one could see her in the parlor of the house with Bishops, priests, and men of the State and Culture like Donoso Cortes, Ambassador of Spain all the way to the Emperor Napoléon III with his wife. Students of Law and Medicine at the great schools came seeking information or recommendations. Before doing a good work they would demand at which door they should be knocking. Among them, the Blessed Frederic Ozanam, cofounder of the “Saint Vincent de Paul Society”, and the venerable Jean Léon Le Prévost, future founder of the Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul, who looked for counsel on the work of their projects.
At her tomb at Montparnasse Cemetery there are always flowers from people who are grateful to her and at the tombstone is written, “to Sister Rosalie from your friends the poor and the rich”. An immense crowd, estimated at 40-50 thousand people, from all strata of society flocked to her funeral. Sister Rosalie Rendu was beatified in 2003.