By: Brittany Yevoli
It is truly a blessing to be in the presence of Madame Lejeune and feel the power of love glowing from her soul. Her visit to Georgetown Visitation was a life changing experience for the students, and I will forever remember her advice: “Never be afraid to defend life.”
This past May, I attended a book signing for “Littlest Suffering Souls” organized by the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which consists of inspiring stories about children who suffer from terminal illnesses but are strongly connected to God. During this event, the Foundation announced the opening of the first hospital for people with Down syndrome in the U.S. The most inspiring moment at this event was when a little boy with Down syndrome, who was about eight years old, sat on stage and read a letter that he had written to Madame Lejeune. The whole audience was in tears, and this was the moment I knew I needed to help these beautiful children.
Shortly thereafter, I volunteered to help with the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA and was amazed by the assignments that David Lejeune, President of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA, entrusted to me. I coordinated meetings for Madame Lejeune’s visit to the US with Catholic Charities Arlington, Catholic Charities USA, and the Archdiocese of Washington. I was honored to accompany Madame Lejeune, David Lejeune, and Thierry de la Villejegu (General Manager of the French foundation) on these meetings, as well as be present during Madame Lejeune’s interview with EWTN. Although I was a little nervous to attend these meetings, everyone was extremely welcoming and appreciative of my help. It is incredibly uplifting to see them devote time, talent, and resources to such a cause. Spending time with these beautiful souls, I witnessed their immense passion, love, and devotion to the foundation. During meetings, Madame Lejeune’s eyes would light up as she spoke of the work of her husband and his dedication to his patients. Despite being in her nineties, Madame Lejeune’s endless energy was infectious.
I worked with the foundation to help orchestrate the visit of Madame Lejeune to my high school, Georgetown Visitation. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to host the wife of a man whose cause for canonization is in progress. Despite the busyness of my school schedule and the challenges that finding time for the assembly posed, I am so grateful that we coordinated this event and that the community, who had the option to attend, filled the auditorium. No one was disappointed. In fact, after her speech, she received a standing ovation from the whole assembly.
It was amazing to see the whole school community come together. Those at the Jerome Lejeune Foundation told me how important it is to see hope in my generation and it truly inspired them.
I hope to continue volunteering for the Foundation, especially as they get closer to the opening of the hospital. I look forward to working face-to-face with patients in the hospital, and to help spread the message, hope, and love of Jerome Lejeune: “Hate the disease, love the patient.” With the skyrocketing statistics of babies aborted with Down syndrome, it is increasingly important to fight for the lives of these beautiful children. They teach us so much about life and love.
Whenever I find myself with an individual with Down syndrome, their joyous innocence reminds me of the beauty in little things. They possess a perspective of the world the rest of us do not have the ability to see. We can learn more about the joys life has to offer through them. My friend with Down syndrome, Lucy, never fails to brighten my day. After my grandfather passed away, she would remind me that he was watching over me. Somehow she knew when I missed him most. I believe these individuals are gifted with a stronger connection to the spiritual world, and they help me grow closer to God.
Jerome and his wife have been an immense inspiration to me to fight for and defend the least in our community. The work of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation has forever changed my view of the world and my understanding of the importance of each life.