Happy Feast of St. Philippine Duchesne. Meg Brudney, head of school at Duchesne Academy in Omaha, Nebraska, offers us a heartfelt reflection on Philippine’s meaning for her and for our world. During these days as we see our world in increasing pain across all boundaries, Philippine can continue to help us deepen our love and work for peace for the whole world and all God’s people.
With love and prayers,
Barb Dawson, Meg Causey, Anne-Marie Conn, Sheila Hammond and Diana Wall
Happy Feast Day! On this day, people around the world are celebrating you and your life. In your earthly humility, you may wonder why because you thought you had failed. Just the contrary, your life was amazingly fruitful.
Your arrival in the New World ultimately resulted in thousands of vocations and schools throughout North America. I actually attended one of these schools 161 years after you settled in St. Charles. It was a wonderful experience.
I have always been intrigued by your life, Philippine, and in awe of your unwavering courage. In order to know you better, I prayed with my imagination, an Ignation form of prayer, to know you more than a story in the historical chronicles of Sacred Heart education. It was a beautiful experience.
In my imagination, we greeted one another, and then I became a bystander. I walked by your side as you helped those impacted by the reign of terror during the French Revolution and realized the ache in your heart. I sensed your impatience to get to the New World and admired your obedience to wait. I entered Rebecca after you were on the boat for a month and was subjected to the cold, damp surroundings, faced with the rough sea and smelled the unpleasant odors. My journey into your world made you fully human and heightened my admiration.
I felt the aches in your bones as a 49-year-old woman on your long journey and watched you pray with complete conviction and total faith. I asked God, “Would I have this endurance and fortitude?”
I knelt by you as you prayed and joined you in your daily, unending, thankless chores. I tasted the stale bread you spared for your companions and listened to your rumbling stomach. My journey into your world was not comprehensive, but it was powerful.
I was with you when you and your fellow sisters laughed and cried, which was something I never read in the history books. I observed your compassion through your strong, yet gentle, face.
I, again, knelt with you as you prayed, this time near the young Potawatomi children in Kansas. I wanted so badly to experience your complete devotion and gratitude – even though you could not communicate with the little children – and surrender to God’s will.
At each encounter, I tried to imagine the courage it took to continue on your journey; how to accept the challenging, relentless life that God called you to live. I pined for your courageous devotion, and I wondered if I have a bit of your courage to always say, “Yes,” to God’s call.
You are a model to many in the world, dear Philippine. I have so enjoyed getting to know you better. I will pray for you, and I ask that you pray for me and all your loving children of the Sacred Heart. And please keep the people of your beloved France close to your heart, asking God to heal them and restore their courage and confidence in the days ahead.
Meg Huerter Brudney
Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Omaha, Class of ’83
and currently Head of School
Image of sculpture of Rose Philippine Duchesne at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Omaha by artist Michael Montag.