Founding Mothers

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

The Spirit is always speaking to us deep in our hearts, if only we listen.

A Biography of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in France on November 21, 1800. Born in Joigny, France, the daughter of a wine cooper in the wine country, Madeleine Sophie Barat was educated beyond the norms of her contemporaries and well-suited for leadership of a religious community dedicated to prayer and education. In Paris, on November 21, 1800, at the age of twenty, she and three other young women consecrated themselves to “make known the revelation of God’s love.” Centered in personal and communal prayer, they set out to give young women a classical education -- not common in their day -- and to offer religious studies and practical skills. They began to call themselves the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Sophie’s goal was to educate girls so that they could have a transforming influence in society.  She believed that women must make themselves capable of doing what men do: act on society so as to transform it. Her vision of education rooted in her experience of Christ gave rise to a complete and coherent system of pedagogical thought responding to the conviction that our natural identity is to be God’s beloved.
In 1806, Mother Barat (women religious took the title Mother or Sister in addition to their family name), was elected superior general. During her 65-year leadership, the Society of the Sacred Heart grew to include more than 3,500 members, including 84 Sacred Heart boarding schools and 74 free schools. Madeleine Sophie died on May 25, 1865.  She was canonized in 1925.

-Adapted from Sophie's Story 
What is needed for winning parents and children is to be busy about them, at their service from morning to night; to forget oneself and enter into what concerns the children, body and soul; to listen to them with interest; to console and to encourage them; finally to sacrifice for them everything except one's soul; and become for their sakes gentle, patient, indulgent, in one word, a mother.

Timeline of Sophie's Life

1779: Born in the Burgundy town of Joigny France
1800:  Founds the Society of the Sacred Heart
1801: Sophie and two other women set up a house in Amiens.
1806:  Elected first Superior General of the Society
1818: The Society expands beyond France to North America, Savoy, Italy, Belgium, Ireland,   England, and Algeria, the Polish region of Austria, the Tyrol, Spain, Westphalia, and   Holland.
1865: Dies in Paris, France.
1908: Beatified by Pope Pius X
1925: Sophie is canonized by Pope Pius XI


The Network has collated a list of resources to use in classrooms and with faculty and staff to learn and share St. Madeleine Sophie'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.