President George W. Bush speaks with Mother Benedict Armstrong as First Lady Laura Bush waves at the conclusion of a visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor at their home in Washington.  Archbishop Donald Wuerl is at right. Mother Benedict is the superior of the Jeanne Jugan Residence, the home operated by the Little Sisters in Northeast Washington.
President George W. Bush speaks with Mother Benedict Armstrong as First Lady Laura Bush waves at the conclusion of a visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor at their home in Washington. Archbishop Donald Wuerl is at right. Mother Benedict is the superior of the Jeanne Jugan Residence, the home operated by the Little Sisters in Northeast Washington.
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In a flurry of nervous anticipation, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington scrambled to finish last minute tasks and escort elderly residents to their seats as they prepared for a Christmas visit by President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush on Dec. 18.

Mother Benedict Armstrong, superior of the Jeanne Jugan Residence, and Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl led the president and first lady around the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Northeast Washington, a home for the poor and elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. They stopped in the "book nook," where the president and Laura Bush donated two books, and greeted Mary Ann Lucey, a volunteer librarian. Afterward President Bush and Laura Bush greeted residents in the cafe and offered them Christmas cookies.

"I put a tie on and everything," said a resident waiting to greet the president.

President Bush wished everyone a "Merry Christmas," and told one resident that he reads the Bible every day.

Later the president and first lady proceeded to the auditorium where sisters, residents and volunteers made Christmas cards for troops.

"Thank you all for making cards for our troops in harm's way. As I worked the tables, I was most thankful that people here said that they pray for our troops, the safety of our troops," President Bush said.

The president told the Little Sisters of the Poor that he was honored to be among people who show the nation that it is possible to reach out to those in need.

"It is easy to feel the great compassion of the sisters here in this hall as you help make somebody else's Christmas a joyous time of celebration," he said.

The Little Sisters of the Poor take care of 75 poor and elderly people in the Jeanne Jugan Residence, and 24 people in their apartments on the premises. Internationally, the sisters take care of the elderly in 32 countries, and they have 206 homes worldwide, according to Mother Maria Christine Lynch, the provincial who oversees 10 homes run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"The Little Sisters of the Poor are renowned for their great hearts and wonderful compassion," President Bush said.

The Jeanne Jugan Residence, established in 1982, offers many levels of care, ranging from independent living to nursing care at no cost to its residents. The Little Sisters have been caring for Washington's poor since 1871.

Sister Mary Jeanette Mines, a Little Sister of the Poor and native Washingtonian, said it is a joy to continue to give of herself.

"Hopefully other women will catch that fire. It is a life of sacrifice and sacrificial joy," said Sister Mary Jeanette.

Pope John Paul II beatified Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in 1982, and she is in the process of being canonized, Mother Benedict said. Blessed Jeanne Jugan began her ministry on the streets of France taking the elderly and poor into her home in the early decades of the 1800s. In order to support her ministry, Blessed Jeanne Jugan begged for money, a tradition the Little Sisters of the Poor consider a fundamental part of their mission today.

President Bush thanked the volunteers who, he said, take time out of their schedules to help someone in need.

"That's one of the messages of the Christmas season, that I hope our fellow citizens reach out and find a neighbor in need, find out somebody who needs a loving pat on the back, or somebody who could use a little help in learning how to read, or an elderly citizen who wants to know that somebody cares for them," he said.

Helping people in need takes prioritization, President Bush said.

"During a season in which we count our blessings, I would hope those of us who are blessed help somebody else," he said. "And there's no better place to come to see that happening than right here."