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: