How does Sophie’s Vision Speak to Sacred Heart Educators Today?

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
This Friday, we will join our sister schools across the globe as we all celebrate the Feast of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. It is rather extraordinary to consider that a French woman living in a quiet town in France in the later 1700’s could inspire educators in Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania more than 200 years after the first Sacred Heart School began in Amiens, France. How is it that Sophie’s vision still informs the mission of Sacred Heart education? As we have continued our celebration of Philippine, we know part of the answer lies in Philippine’s fidelity to Sophie’s vision, but we all can see that the mission of Sacred Heart education remains vibrant today because so many before us remained faithful to Sophie’s desire to reveal the love of God in the heart of the world through education.
Her feast day provides us with the opportunity to thank God for the grace of Sophie’s vision and to pray for today’s Educators of the Sacred Heart who are committed to this generation of young people and their formation as adults endowed by grace and wisdom. In a time of complexity, change and uncertainty, Sophie responded from the depths of her relationship with Jesus Christ whose image and love were so deeply a reality to her that the Spirit remained infused in all she did. It is from this love that she received and developed her vision of education. Faithful to the inspiration of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, the Society, and Catholic theology and philosophy, Sacred Heart educators have shared Sophie’s desire to help people become ever more aware of the truth, of love and of freedom as they discover the meaning of their lives and devote themselves to others. This shared desire continues to inspire all of us.

On her feast, we will hear Sophie widely quoted. These are among my favorite

 For the sake of one child, I would have founded the Society.

If I had my life to live over again, I would seek to live in complete openness to the Holy Spirit.
Your example, even more than your words, will be an eloquent lesson to the world.
It is not merely for our own sakes that we should try to become interior souls; we should have
constantly before our eyes the children who will come to claim spiritual help from us, help that
without prayer we shall never be able to give them.
But I offer yet a different idea of Sophie’s for us to consider this feast:
Let us respect childhood; let us honor the soul of that small creature of God who can already
make choices of the best if we take the time to awaken her reason and make her use her judgment.
Caught in the midst of constant and complex change, we see values and beliefs are constantly challenged. I think on her feast, Sophie would want us to look at our world which is our context as educators with compassion and solidarity, attitudes of Christ’s Heart which Sophie greatly valued. I believe that she would want Educators of the Sacred Heart to grapple with the insights offered by the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Survey 2017.
Why do I offer us this survey to consider as we celebrate Sophie? As Educators engaged by young people, we need to know what their hopes, dreams and concerns are. This study’s summary document features key messages and insights in a manner that is both informative and encourages users to “listen more deeply” to young people.
To be true to Sophie and all who have come before us, we must remain clear -- young people are our priority; they carry the seeds of the future. When the International Heads of Sacred Heart Schools around the globe gathered for our Fifth Conference in October, 2015, we observed that the very young people with whom we work daily will be faced with making strategic decisions not simply for themselves but for the peoples of the globe. In Mexico, we concluded that as members of the Great Family of the Sacred Heart that we must see ourselves as the Stewards or Holders of the spirituality of the Open Heart of Christ.” Attentiveness to this open heart is a call to…. “contemplate the Heart of Jesus through the pierced heart of humanity”. This sensibility is at the core of who we are as educators. Our choice of this vocation is rooted in reality. It is never passive.
Our perspective as Sacred Heart Educators impels us to encourage our students to embrace fully their human dignity for the sake of others. Across the globe we the inheritors of Sophie’s vision are inspired by the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart education. They capture the principles of Catholic education as infused by Saint Madeleine Sophie’s charism and the spirit of the Society of the Sacred Heart. The essence of a Sacred Heart school is that it be deeply concerned for each student’s total development-- spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical-- that it emphasizes serious study, educates to social responsibility and lays the foundation of strong faith. The grace of Sophie’s vision is that she continues to inform our educational praxis.
As we remember Sophie, may we respond as she did from the depths of our relationship with God. May Christ be the source of our inspiration so that we sense the Spirit infused in all that we do. May we never lose sight that the mission of Sacred Heart education has and continues to be to educate to an informed, active faith, critical thinking, and service to others. May we find joy in our service within the Church of education. May Sophie’s vision serve as our prophetic orientation in the midst of complexity, leading us to hope, a hope that believes in the goodness of each individual, a hope that believes in the goodness of humanity, a hope that believes in and trusts the love of the Heart of God.”
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.