Saint Philippine

Celebrating Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, a pioneer missionary of the Society of the Sacred Heart, who came to St. Charles, Missouri, from France and founded the first free school west of the Mississippi in September 1818.

A brief biography of St. Philippine

Rose Philippine Duchesne remains in the minds and hearts of many a courageous, faith-filled missionary who through her simple, consistent choices ensured that Sacred Heart education would take root not simply on the frontier but across the world. Born in Grenoble, France in 1769, Philippine served as one of Madeleine Sophie’s earliest companions.  Realizing her dream to go to the “New World”, Philippine arrived in the frontier of Missouri in 1818, where she opened the first free school west of the Mississippi.  Years later her dream came true when Philippine traveled to Sugar Creek, Kansas to serve the Potawatomi. There she was honored by the people who called her Quakahkanumad (The Woman Who Prays Always).  Unable to remain in Sugar Creek, Philippine lived her final years at the Academy in St. Charles. She died on November 18, 1852.
During her tenure as leader, Philippine was responsible for five convents: St. Charles, St. Louis and Florissant in Missouri, and Grand Coteau and St. Michaels in Louisiana. While Philippine adapted to the American culture, she preserved the ways of the Society as much as possible. With the Plan of Studies in place, the Religious of the Sacred Heart offered their students a well-rounded curriculum, combining spiritual and intellectual training. Philippine’s schools were the first in St. Louis to educate students of color. She also opened the first orphanage in St. Louis.  Because of her missionary spirit, the Society of the Sacred Heart spread around the world. Because of her loyalty to Madeleine Sophie Barat, the Society remained one congregation, its internationality one of its strongest characteristics.  Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne died on November 18, 1852, at the age of 83. She is interred in a shrine built in her honor at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, Missouri. She was beatified in 1940 and canonized July 3, 1988.

These simple sentences do not capture the full extent of Philippine’s legacy. In a letter written to all in the Family of the Sacred Heart, Helen McLaughlin, RSCJ, Former Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart,  states:  

Helen McLaughlin, RSCJ

"What impresses me about Philippine is her ability to respond to difficult events and times; to accept and love a new and totally different country and way of life; to enter wholeheartedly into another culture,language, and system of values and to appreciate these. St. Madeleine Sophie loved poverty and prayer, and Philippine followed her example with a boldness and totality that permeated her whole life. This openness to the Spirit and freedom of her whole being to respond to His call did not lead her to great success, but rather to the deep experience that the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die that the Lord might bring forth the harvest. Trusting in God, she gave her all. Her goal in life was not personal holiness, but the spending of her energies to make the Heart of Christ known and loved. Her missionary élan was lived in fidelity to the Constitutions of 1815. This fidelity made her holiness and virtue authentic and real, visible to those who knew her …Philippine can encourage us to believe more surely that 'the power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine'" (Ephesians 3:20).

Timeline of Philippine's Life

1788: In 1788, she made the decision to enter the Visitation of Holy Mary religious order, despite her family's opposition.
1801: 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.
1804: Encouraged by her mentor, the Jesuit priest, Joseph Varin, to meet Duchesne, in 1804 she traveled there.
1818: In 1818, with Barat's blessing, Duchesne headed out to the United States with four other Sisters of the Society.
1842: 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.
1852: She died on November 18, 1852, aged 83.


The Network has collated a list of resources to use in classrooms and with faculty and staff to learn and share Saint Philippine's story. Click here to view and download the resources.
Schools of the Sacred Heart share in the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart as articulated in the Goals and Criteria. The structure supporting Sacred Heart education in Canada and the United States includes the Conference of Sacred Heart Education and the Network of Sacred Heart Schools.  Together they provide services and programs to ensure vitality of mission for the member schools sponsored by the Society of the Sacred Heart.