Blessed Rosalie Rendu

Friend of the poor and of the rich


Jeanne Marie Rendu (Sister Rosalie), daughter of Antoine Rendu and Marie-Anne Laracine, was born 9 September 1786 at Confort, in the region of Lancrans, Department of Ain, France.  On completing her Seminary Sister Rosalie was sent to the Mouffetard neighbourhood, one of the most miserable in 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 at the centre of a movement of charity that characterized Paris and France in the first half of the XIX century where public assistance did not exist. On 25 May 1802 Sister Rosalie entered the Seminary (novitiate) at the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris.

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.

To the rich Sister Rosalie gave the joy of doing good works. Often one could see her in the parlour 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 were, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, co-founder 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. Every day, in all kinds of weather, Sister Rosalie crisscrossed the streets and alleyways that climbed to the Panthéon, the south side of the Hill of St. Geneviève – rue Mouffetard, passage des Patriarch, rue de l’Epée de Bois, rue du Pot de Fer. With her rosary in her hand and a heavy basket on her arm, she walked with hurried steps for she knew that the poor were waiting for her!

Like a monk in the cloister, Sister Rosalie walked with her God. She would speak to God of this family in distress as the father no longer had any work, of this elderly person who risked dying alone in an attic: “Never have I prayed so well as in the streets”, she would say.

At her tomb at Montparnasse Cemetery there is always flowers from people who are grateful to her and on her tombstone is written, "To Sister Rosalie from your friends the rich and the poor".