Glasgow’s Little Sisters of the Poor have celebrated with joy and enthusiasm the canonisation of their foundress, Jeanne Jugan. On the day of the canonisation itself, the community of St. Joseph’s, Robroyston, had a Mass for the sisters, residents, staff and friends at the Home.

As the size of the chapel at the Home rather limited the number of people who could attend, a larger celebration to mark the event was held on the following Sunday (25th October) in St. Thomas the Apostle church. However there was always the possibility that even the larger venue would prove insufficient, given the popularity of the Little Sisters in the heart of Glaswegians. As one priest commented, they might need elastic walls to accommodate all who wanted to come!

Standing Room only at St. Thomas's as the congregation waits for the beginning of Mass

Standing Room only at St. Thomas's as the congregation waits for the beginning of Mass

In the event, it was standing room only as the service started. Archbishop Conti was principal celebrant, and he was joined by over 20 priests from the Archdiocese and a large contingent of the St. Mungo Singers to lead the music, with further musical support from Noel Donnelly on clarsach.

The joyful tone of the celebration was obvious from the beginning, with the opening hymn “God, we praise you” being sung with gusto by the capacity congregation. The Dunkeld Gloria maintained the sense of joyful thanks in the warm acoustic of St. Thomas’s.

The response to the psalm for the Sunday, Psalm 125 sung by Gerry Healy, seemed so appropriate for the occasion – “Those who sow in tears shall sing when they reap”. Archbishop Conti, in his homily, drew attention also to the happy relevance of the Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52) which was the story of the rich young man and Jesus’ invitation to him to sell everything he had and follow him. This in effect was what St. Jeanne Jugan had done, and what the charism of the Little Sisters consisted in – poverty and the following of Christ.

As the gifts were prepared and brought to the altar, Noel Donnelly played a gentle air on clarsach before the choir led the congregation in singing “Christ be our Light” , a hymn whose words are so appropriate to the work of the Little Sisters. It was wonderful to hear the wholehearted participation of all present.

The celebration ended with the hymn to St. Jeanne Jugan, “Sister and servant of the poor” but people seemed almost reluctant to leave the church, even to enjoy the refreshments laid on for them in St. Thomas’s Hall. They stayed to have a closer look at the lovely icon and banner of St. Jeanne at the front of the church, to obtain mementos of the occasion and to catch up with friends – in short to savour the joy of the day.