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.

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Taking Root

The Society soon attracted new vocations and opened a novitiate. Before long, Philippine was responsible for five convents: St. Charles (which reopened in 1828), 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.

Finally, in 1841, Philippine’s desire to serve among the native people came to fruition. At the specific request of Fr. Peter Verhaegen, the Jesuit in charge of the mission, she went with three other Religious of the Sacred Heart to Sugar Creek, Kansas, to establish a school for Potawatomi girls. At 72, she was too frail to be of much help with the physical work, and she could not learn the Potawatomi language. She spent much of her time in prayer, gaining the name “Woman Who Prays Always.” After just one year, she was called back to St. Charles because of her health. Although she was in Sugar Creek just a short time, she made a deep impression on the Potawatomi.

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Read Saint Rose Philippine's story in French

Read Saint Rose Philippine's story in Spanish