Our History

Our History—From Humble Beginnings

The first requests for a home of the Little Sisters in Boston were submitted to the motherhouse in France in 1858, but the Congregation was not quite ready to set out for the New World. Ten years later, Father Earnest Lelievre, a great friend of the Congregation who worked tirelessly for its expansion, finally came to the United States. He believed Boston would be an excellent location for a home of the Little Sisters, and so with the permission of Archbishop John Joseph Williams, plans were made for a home in Roxbury. Founded in 1870, the Roxbury home would be one of the original thirteen establishments of the Little Sisters in America. How fitting—since Boston had played such a prominent role in the history of the original thirteen colonies!

The first Little Sisters arrived from Brooklyn, New York at 5 p.m. on April 19, 1870 and received a warm welcome from the Sisters of Notre Dame. The next day, a Wednesday, the little group took possession of their temporary home, and placed it under the protection of St. Joseph. The Little Sisters were happy to see many visitors arriving at their door, as the children of the school operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame carried the news of their arrival home to their parents. That first evening when supper time arrived, they had no furniture and ate while seated on the floor, dining on a meal provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

One month later, Roxbury was home to eight Little Sisters of the Poor caring for fourteen elderly women. These were only temporary quarters and on September 3, 1872, the Little Sisters moved into their new home, located at Dudley Street and Woodward Avenue in Roxbury.

There were many poor in the city of Boston. In 1883 a second home was begun in Charlestown. These two homes still were unable to keep up with the growing demand and so in 1889, Holy Rosary Home in Somerville was opened. Holy Rosary Home served the needy elderly of the greater Boston area for nearly 90 years.

By the 1970’s, the homes in Somerville and Roxbury no longer met the Life Safety Code and needed to be replaced (the Charlestown home had been phased out in 1896). The Little Sisters decided to combine the two homes in a new building at the Somerville location. The new home went up behind the original one on Highland Avenue and Jeanne Jugan Residence opened its doors in 1978.

More than 140 years after the first Little Sisters arrived in Boston, the work of hospitality rooted in such humble beginnings continues at the Jeanne Jugan Residence and Pavilion. Although today we have only one home in the area, we continue to reach out to serve low-income seniors throughout greater Boston with the same love and devotion of those first Little Sisters who arrived here on that April day so day long ago. We are proud to be a part of Boston’s great history!