Rose Philippine Duchesne
Philippine Rose Duchesne
August 29, 1769|
Grenoble, Dauphiné, Kingdom of France
|Died||November 18, 1852
St. Charles, Missouri, U.S.
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church
(United States & the Society of the Sacred Heart)
|Beatified||May 12, 1940, Vatican City, by Pope Pius XII|
|Canonized||July 3, 1988, Vatican City, by Pope John Paul II|
|Major shrine||Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
St. Charles, Missouri,
|Patronage||perseverance amid adversity,
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, R.S.C.J. (August 29, 1769 – November 18, 1852), was a French Religious Sister and educator. Along with the foundress, Madeleine-Sophie Barat, she was a prominent early member of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and founded the congregation's first communities in the United States. She spent the last half of her life teaching and serving the people of the Midwestern United States, then the western frontier of the nation.
Duchesne was beatified on May 12, 1940, and canonized on July 3, 1988 by the Roman Catholic Church.
She was born in Grenoble, then the capital of the ancient Province of the Dauphiné in the Kingdom of France, the second of seven daughters, along with one son. Her father, Pierre-François Duchesne (1748-1797), was a prominent lawyer during the Day of the Tiles. Her mother, Rose-Euphrosine Périer (1743-1814), was the sister of Claude Périer, an industrialist who later helped finance the rise to power of Napoleon. Claude Périer's son, Casimir, later a Prime Minister of France, was the grandfather of Jean Casimir-Perier, a President of France. The Duchesne family lived in the Château de Vizille, the Périer family home outside of the city, as did Claude and his family. Together, the two couples had 20 children.
Monastery of the Visitation
After surviving a bout of chicken pox which left her slightly scarred, in 1781 Rose Duchesne and her cousin Josephine were sent to be educated in the Monastery of Sainte-Marie-d'en-Haut (known for the social status of its members), located on a mountainside near Grenoble, by the community of Visitandine nuns. When she began to show a strong attraction to the monastic life, her father withdrew her from the monastery school the following year and had her tutored with her cousins in the family home. In 1788 she made the decision to enter the Visitation of Holy Mary religious order, despite her family's opposition. She convinced an aunt to accompany her on a visit to the monastery, where she immediately requested admission, leaving her aunt to return home without her and to tell her father what happened.
In 1792, however, revolutionaries shut down the monastery, during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, and dispersed the nuns. Duchesne returned to her family where she lived at their country home, along with two aunts, who had been Visitandines at Romans-sur-Isère. She attempted to continue living the Rule of Life of her Order, while serving her family and those suffering from the Reign of Terror, including those imprisoned at the former monastery.
With the Catholic Church again able to operate openly in France under Napoleon, in 1801 Duchesne attempted to re-establish the Visitation monastery, acquiring the buildings from its new owner. The buildings were in shambles, having been used as a military barracks and prison. Though a few of the nuns and the Mother Superior did return temporarily, the nuns found that the austere living conditions was too much for them in their advanced years. Eventually Duchesne, now the Mother Superior of the house, was left with only three companions.
Society of the Sacred Heart
While the restored Visitandine community was floundering, in northern France, Madeleine-Sophie Barat was founding the new Society of the Sacred Heart—whose members were long known as the "Madames of the Sacred Heart" from their use of that title, due to the hostility to religious communities which lingered in post-Revolutionary France. She wanted to establish a new foundation in Grenoble. Encouraged by her mentor, the Jesuit priest, Joseph Varin, to meet Duchesne, in 1804 she traveled there. Duchesne accepted Barat's offer to merge the Visitation community into the Society of the Sacred Heart. The new congregation had a similar religious mission as that of the Visitandines, that of educating young women, but without being an enclosed religious order. The two women became immediate and lifelong friends.
In 1815, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Duchesne followed Barat's instructions and established a Convent of the Sacred Heart in Paris, where she both opened a school and became the Mistress of novices.
Missionary in America
During her childhood, Duchesne had heard many stories in her parish church from missionary priests of life in Louisiana, founded as a colony of New France, and had long felt a desire to serve the Native Americans who lived there. In 1817, William Dubourg, S.S., Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, visited the convent in Paris. Bishop Dubourg was looking for a congregation of educators to help him evangelize the Indian and French children of his diocese. After meeting him, Duchesne immediately felt her old desire for missionary service revive and begged permission from Barat to serve in the bishop's diocese.
In 1818, with Barat's blessing, Duchesne headed out to the United States with four other Sisters of the Society. After ten weeks at sea, they arrived in New Orleans. To their shock, however, the bishop had made no provisions for housing them. After they had rested briefly with the Ursuline nuns, they took advantage of the newly established steamboat service up the Mississippi River to travel to St. Louis, and finally settled in St. Charles, in what was then the Missouri Territory, a journey of seven weeks. She was later to describe the location as "the remotest village in the U.S."; nonetheless the community established a new Sacred Heart convent in a log cabin there, known as the Duquette Mansion, the first house of the Society ever built outside France the first in St. Charles County, Missouri, and the first free school west of the Mississippi. "Poverty and Christian heroism are here", she wrote of the site, "and trials are the riches of priests in this land". The following year Dubourg moved the community across the river to the town of Florissant, Missouri, where they opened a school and a novitiate.
The United States had purchased the area from France only fifteen years earlier, and settlers, many poor but others with money and slaves, were streaming in from the East Coast of the United States. Their new foundation faced many struggles, including lack of funds, inadequate housing, hunger and very cold weather, and the Sisters struggled to learn English. By 1828, the Society's first five members in America had grown to six communities, operating several schools. Other foundations in Louisiana followed: at Grand Coteau, near Opelousas, at Natchitoches, at Baton Rouge, at New Orleans, and at Convent, Louisiana. In 1826 Pope Leo XII, through a decretum laudis, formally approved the Society of the Sacred Heart, recognizing their work. The Jesuits acquired the Sisters' former school property in St. Charles in 1828, where they built a parish church, and asked the Sisters to return – to that same log cabin where they had lived, in fact, because it was still the biggest house in town – and conduct the parish school. The Sisters did so. In 1835 they built their first brick building.
In 1841 the Jesuits asked the Sisters to join them in a new mission with the Potawatomi tribe in eastern Kansas, along Sugar Creek. At age seventy-one, she was not among those initially selected for the trip. Father Verhaegen insisted, "She may not be able to do much work, but she will assure success to the mission by praying for us." Unable to master their language, she was not able to teach, so she would spend long periods in prayer. The children named her Quahkahkanumad, which translates as Woman Who Prays Always. Inspired by stories about the famed Jesuit Pierre-Jean De Smet, she became determined to continue on and help Native Americans as far as the Rocky Mountains.
We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self…. The truest crosses are those we do not choose ourselves…. He who has Jesus has everything. (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne)
In 1842, after a year among the Potawatomi, it was clear that Duchesne's health could not sustain the regime of village life and she returned to St Charles. She spent the last decade of her life living there in a tiny room under a stairway near the chapel. Toward the end of her life, she was very lonely, going blind, feeble, and yearned for letters from Mother Barat. She died on November 18, 1852, aged 83.
Initially buried in the convent cemetery, St. Rose's remains were exhumed three years later and found to be intact. She was then reburied in a crypt within a small shrine on the convent grounds. The cause for Duchesne's canonization was introduced in 1895. She was declared Venerable in 1909 by Pope Pius X and was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1940. The Holy See ordered in 1951 that she be buried more suitably. Construction was begun on a larger shrine, and her remains were moved there on June 13 of the following year. Pope John Paul II canonized her on July 3, 1988.
- Roman Catholicism in the United States#American Catholic Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints
- "Philippine-Rose Duchesne". New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
- "St. Rose Philippine Duchesne". Society of the Sacred Heart-United States & Canada.
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- "Rose-Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852)", Vatican News Service
- Foley O.F.M., Leonard. "St. Rose Philippine Duchesne", Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media
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- Photos of the Shrine
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- Network of Sacred Heart Schools
- International Society of the Sacred Heart
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- Catholic Online - St. Rose Philippine Duchesne