Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne


Born on August 29th, 1769 in Grenoble, France, Saint Rose was the second of seven daughters and one son to Pierre-Francois Duchesne, a prominent lawyer. Her mother, Rose-Euphrosine Perier was the sister of Clause Perier, a businessman who would eventually help finance Napoleon. Her Uncle Claude Perier would later have a son who would be the Prime Minister of France and a grandson the President of France.


In 1780 she survived smallpox but was left was visible scars from the virus. She and her cousin were sent for education at the Monastery of Sainte-Marie-d'en-Haut but her father pulled her out of the school when he started showing interest in pursuing a religious life. Against the will of her father, she left home in 1788 to join the Visitation of Holy Mary religious order. Unfortunately, her first foray into religious life was short - men from the French Revolution shut down the monastery and forced the nuns to disperse. She lived at home for a short time after this, attempting to maintain her vows and religious lifestyle with serving those who were suffering during the revolution.


When the monastery was allowed to reopen under Napoleon, she returned to find the buildings in dire disrepair. Though she became the Mother Superior of the House, the total group of nuns totaled only four now due to the conditions of the buildings. In 1804, Madeleine-Sophie Barat visited Grenoble and met with Saint Rose about Madeline-Sophie's new order - the Society of the Sacred Heart. The two became close friends immediately and soon Saint Rose helped established a Convent of the Sacred Heart in Paris with an attached school. She was promoted to Mistress of novices.


In 1817, the Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Florida's, William Dubourg, visited the convent in Paris looking for help (specifically teachers) in his efforts to evangelize the Indian and French that lived in his diocese. Saint Rose lept at the chance to serve in missionary work here, for as a child she had often heard stories of Louisiana and the missionary priests working there. It would take 10 weeks of travel, but in 1818 Saint Rose and four other sisters arrived in New Orleans. They travelled another seven weeks up the Mississippi river to the town of Saint Charles in the Missouri territory, a city so remote that she wrote in her journal that it must be the remotest village in the United States. In a small log cabin, they formed the Duquette Mansion, the very first Society of the Sacred Heart mission outside of France. The school attached to it was the very first free school west of the Mississippi river. In her journal, she wrote:


Poverty and Christian heroism are here, and trials are the riches of priests in this land

By 1828, there were soon six total communities and several schools. They would soon expand to Grand Coteau, Natchitoches, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Convent Louisiana. Pope Leo XII formally approved the Society in 1826. In 1841, the sisters joined the Jesuits in a mission in Kansas to reach the Potawatomi tribe. The locals called her Quahkahkanumad, which translates as Woman who prays always. By now she was 71, and her advanced age forced her to return to Saint Charles, spending her final years in prayer. She died on November 18th, 1852 at the age of 83.


Pope Pius X declared her Venerable in 1909 and Pope Pius XII beatified her in 1940. She was formally canonized in 1988 by Saint Pope John Paul II. Her feast day is celebrated on November 18th.

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